Who was the 2,500-year-old Ballachulish Goddess?

The Ballachulish Figure was found in 1880 and is held by the National Museums of Scotland. PIC: National Museums of Scotland.
The Ballachulish Figure was found in 1880 and is held by the National Museums of Scotland. PIC: National Museums of Scotland.
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She was found face down in deep peat in the Highlands and dates to more than 2,500 years ago.

The life-sized figure stood at least 4ft 5ins tall and is carved from oak with quartzite pebbles for eyes.

The Ballachulish Figure in full. PIC: National Museums of Scotland.

The Ballachulish Figure in full. PIC: National Museums of Scotland.

To some, she is known as the Ballachulish Goddess - and her origins remains mysteriously unknown.

Discovered in 1880 during building work, the figures was discovered around 120 metres from the shore of Loch Leven.

READ MORE: The 25 objects which sum up 5,000 years of Scottish history

It is believed she may have stood overlooking the water or a pool with offerings made to her by sailors to ensure a safe passage.

What is known is that radiocarbon tests have dated the Ballachulish Goddess to 600 BC making her more than 2,500-years-old.

READ MORE: The amateur treasure hunters unearthing Scotland’s lost relics

The Scotsman reported a February 1881 meeting of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland where the figure, then described as the Pagan Idol of Ballachulish, was discussed.

The report described the “curious and interesting relic” found in the Old Ballachulish moss.

It said: “The report is that of a nude female, as rudely modelled as it is almost possible to conceive, but at the same time presenting a distinctly recognisable imitation of the human form.”

The report added: “The head has a rounded protuberance which has been suggested to be the hair gathered into a top knot, the face is somewhat flattened, the nose partly obliterated and the eyes made by the insertion of quartz pebbles to represent eye balls.

“Nothing akin to his remarkable image has hitherto been known either in Scotland or Ireland.”

Similar objects had been found in Holderness in Yorkshire, and parts of the Continent - but nothing of the scale of the Ballachulish find, the meeting heard.

The item is held by National Museums of Scotland and appears far different from when it was found.

Those moving it in 1880 could not find a container big enough that would allow it to be kept wet while being transported.

Within two weeks of it being found, the figure’s legs broke on its journey to the old National Museum of

Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh. It later warped and cracked due to its dry state with experts today describing it as a “conservation nightmare”.

Early photographs shows the ‘goddes’ with a container which appears to hold a number of pointed objects.

According to NMS, she is also holding something that looks like a “man’s private parts” in each hand.

When found, a number of intertwined branches and twigs surrounded the figure which suggests she may have been held in a wickerwork container - or was surrounded by a shrine.

The area where she was found is rich in archaeological discoveries. Several Bronze Age burial sites have been located close by.