While history is chock-full of interesting tidbits of knowledge on famous historical figures, landmarks and locations, buildings, and significant events, it recalls some stranger things as well. Strange not only because of their execution, but because some facts were lost to the ages and remain a mystery to this day.

One such mystery is the Hornet Balls—gigantic spherical boulders that were found in one of the mines in Virginia. And people don’t really know what to make of them.

History’s full of weird things, including the ‘Hornet Balls’ that are on display in a Virginian museum

Image credits: Sydney Rose

As you might have guessed, the US has a rich mining history. Throughout the 19th century, there was gold rush after gold rush in the country. Mining colonies rose and thrived in random locations that today are abandoned, mere husks of what once was.

Bored Panda recently covered a similar story of a guy who self-isolated in a mining ghost town recently and spent some time exploring the mines and their history.

So, in 1998, the Monroe Park and the Gold Mining Camp Museum opened its doors in Goldvein, Virginia to show off the state’s impressive gold mining history. The park itself is not a mining site, but over 18 abandoned mines can be found in the county.

The Gold Mining Camp Museum found these a while back in a mine around a mile away from its premises

Image credits: Sydney Rose

Image credits: Stephen Little

What it does do, however, is try to mimic a mining camp from the early 1900s by having an authentic bunkhouse, a mess hall, and an assay office following the Virginian mine aesthetic of the times.

One of its exhibits, namely a pair of mining artifacts, have been drawing the internet’s fancy recently—massive Hornet Balls that were salvaged from the Liberty Mine ruins that are around a mile away from the park.

Specifically, these are gigantic hollow spheres that are built from reinforced concrete pasted on an iron mesh frame. They measure at 7 feet tall, about a foot and a half more than your average Joe, and over 20 feet in circumference. Each ball weighs in at around 7 tons.

While the name and their purpose are a mystery, it is believed they were used to separate gold from rock

Image credits: Sydney Rose

Image credits: Sydney Rose

Now, what they were used for is a bit of a mystery. Since they were found and retrieved from an abandoned mine, it is believed that they were certainly some sort of mine implements. It is speculated that they were used as ore crushers to break off gold from the rock.

It would function similarly to a mill whereby the boulder would be attached to an axle and rotate around a central point. The miners most likely used horse or steam power for this as the boulders are simply too heavy for human strength.

However, these are just speculations as historians haven’t yet figured out if the ore was crushed under the weight of the boulders or whether it was put inside the hollow space inside and turned.

As for the name, historians speculate they’re called that because of the resemblance to a hornet nest or because they make a buzzing sound when in use

Image credits: Sydney Rose

Image credits: us17coastalhighway

Oh, and the name—Hornet Balls. Surely a point of ridicule among internauts, the name is speculated to be derived from the sound the boulders make while rolling, but there are also thoughts that it might be because of their resemblance to hornets’ nests.

Now, mining has come a long way since then. Today, we use heavy machinery for the most part when it comes to mining and don’t rely on strangely named implements. But it is surely a bizarre bit of mining history that shouldn’t be forgotten, if not for the historical value, then at least for the name.

Needless to say, some internauts found this discovery rather funny because of the name alone

Image credits: Sydney Rose

What are your thoughts on this? Got any alternative names for the Hornet Balls? Let us know in the comment section below!

Here’s how people reacted to the strange mining artifacts