Roman dodecahedron discovered by amateur archaeologists in the UK (3 photos)

Category: Archeology, PEGI 0+
24 January 2024

Amateur archaeologists in England have discovered a metal dodecahedron from Roman times. More than 100 such objects have already been found in northwestern Europe, but archaeologists still do not know what they were used for.

The dodecahedron, a 12-sided metal object the size of a grapefruit, was found this summer during excavations in a farmer's field near the Lincolnshire village of Norton Disney, about 56 kilometers southeast of Sheffield.

According to Richard Parker, secretary of Norton-Disney's group of historians and archaeologists, an earlier geophysical survey had discovered what appeared to be a buried hole in the field. With the help of metal detectors, Roman coins and other metal objects have already been found there.

The excavations lasted two weeks, and on the penultimate day a volunteer discovered a dodecahedron in one of the trenches. Everyone was very surprised - that day the metal detectors gave quite a few signals, and suddenly such a find came out of nowhere!

Unlike many other dodecahedrons of this type, the one found is absolutely intact and has no damage. There is one more difference: the size of this dodecahedron exceeds the size of previous finds - they were about the size of a golf ball.

Now the amazing artifact is on display in the museum. He was recently featured on Digging Britain, an archaeological TV show on the BBC.

Over the past 200 years, more than 100 dodecahedrons have been found in northwestern Europe.

These objects date back to the 1st-3rd centuries AD and were found only in the former northern territories of the Roman Empire. They are sometimes called "Gallo-Roman" dodecahedrons, in honor of the Gauls (or Celts) who lived in these places.

Each dodecahedron is a 12-sided hollow shell of metal, usually bronze, with holes of different sizes on each face; these holes are often surrounded by concentric rings imprinted into the metal, and there is a spike at each corner where the 12 edges meet.

But there are no inscriptions on them, and not a single description of dodecahedrons has been found in Roman sources. As a result, modern archaeologists cannot explain what these objects could have been used for. Some have speculated that they could have been toys, dice, mace heads, sling stones, or rangefinders for Roman artillery. Other theories can be found on the Internet: from the fact that these dodecahedrons were used to calculate dates from the stars, to that they served as patterns for knitting Roman gloves.

But the objects are too intricate to be weapons, and none of the other explanations answer all the questions either. Many archaeologists believe that dodecahedrons had a religious or cultic purpose in the Gallo-Roman regions where they were found - for example, they may have been used for fortune telling or witchcraft. Some of them were found in graves, strengthening the idea that they must have been magical objects; Roman law prohibited most magic, which may be why there are no records of them.

According to Richard Parker, the recent find at Norton Disney is one of the few times a Roman dodecahedron has been found in an archaeological context. Many others were found by metal detectors and turned in later, far from where they were found.

Although the excavation had to be closed for the season the day after the dodecahedron was discovered, the team hopes to secure additional funding and return to the site this coming summer, he said. Archaeologists have now found Iron Age artefacts dating from before Roman rule and hundreds of shards of Roman pottery from the second and third centuries AD in the area around the village; In addition, the remains of a Roman villa were discovered near the village.

All of England and Wales became Roman provinces after 43 AD. e., when the legions of Emperor Claudius invaded the country. Roman rule lasted until about 410 AD. e. At this time, most of the legions left to defend continental Europe from barbarian invasions, and the British were left on their own.

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