Another mystery Roman Dodecahedron found in England

I think that if people were knitting in Roman times, there would be some documentary evidence in some of the writing that has lasted since then? As there are for so many other aspects of common tech and daily life.

So, sure, it could be that this was a tool for knitting, and was used back then, and no documentary evidence survived that a) knitting as we know it existed and b) this was used for that knitting. : )

It just that, combined, that seems against the odds for me. It seems more likely to be something else that we don’t know.

I like the possibility of the mystery being solved this way. I just think the overall situation leans against it.


This paper shows many examples. Knitting isn’t mentioned.

Could be an oversight, but if it was for knitting, all of the extant examples could be succesfully used for that purpose.

including these sorts.

Might be used for ritual veneration of the goddess of glovemakers.


It’s been established that it could be used for knitting gloves but never confirmed that it was created for that purpose.

It might be one of those situations like the Coca-Cola bottle found by the San tribespeople in The Gods Must Be Crazy; just because someone finds clever ways to make use of an unidentified object doesn’t necessarily mean that was the purpose it was created for.


You mean it wasn’t an early prototype of Arnold Cavor’s moon-ship?


Thanks for sparing me the job of having to debunk this theory. The internet just decided one day to adopt it as the one true solution because it perfectly fits its favourite trope of the normal person with common sense showing up the stupid academics with their theories of ritual, who have no experience in the real world.

The funny thing is that I know dozens of archaeologists who knit, so it’s not lack of experience that makes us question the theory, but rather the fact that it doesn’t fit the evidence.


So, watched Digging For Britain … great show… and the project lead said these are NOT Roman (as none had been found in proper Roman lands)… they are of Saxon, Western/Northern Europe type origins from the Roman occupation. But culturally not of Roman design.


I find it annoying that the member of a history and archeology group would fall back on “magic” as the use for the object rather than “We don’t know”. It seems that just as “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, any old and unfamiliar technology is also indistinguishable from magic.


There are sometimes good reasons to interpret objects as related to ritual.

If you found this, for example, in a Roman excavation site, you would think it was a theatre prop, to simulate a sword wound.

And it was. But by its location associated with a mithraeum, the ritual site of the eastern cult of Mithras in the Roman border province of Germania Superior, we know it was actually used in ritual mystery plays. It doesn’t seem obvious from looking at the object, but that’s what it is.

Similarly, there are good reasons to at least not dismiss a ritual use of these dodecahedra. Personally I rather like to think they were associated with Neopythagoreanism, a philosophy that was found at the time in the Roman empire. One of Pythagoras’s discoveries was a new platonic solid, the


Now, I’m not saying this is the last word in interpretation, but it fits some of the evidence, such as that there are also finds of icosahedra in the same style (the platonic solid one further down the list) and that the vertices are emphasised (they play a role in inscribing the solid in a sphere).

The distribution of the finds in the northern provinces doesn’t fit so well, however. Then again, eastern cults (Mithras, Sol Invictus, Isis Fortuna, Jesus of Nazareth, etc.) were especially popular among soldiers and veterans in those provinces.


That was my first reaction as well, but then I remembered how much we do know about the Romans. I would wager that we have so much evidence that absences of evidence actually do mean something else than *you weren’t looking hard enough".


Sadly, the thesis does not seem to be online.


Saxon wouldn’t fit the time period or distribution, which is skewed towards France and Germany, and especially the limes. I haven’t seen this episode of Digging for Britain yet, but the distribution points towards a military context rather than a specific ethnic one to me.

ETA: The segment is at c. minute 33

She says Romano-celtic, which makes a bit more sense in terms of distribution, but even then, the frontier distribution pushes me towards the military


A great overview paper with a great title!

And I agree that while it is difficult to argue from absence of evidence, contrary to popular belief there is quite a bit of evidence for Roman textile technology, and knitting just isn’t a part of that.



and some filler as posts require at least 5 characters.


Paging William J. Blazkowicz and Set Roth…


Seen from, say Heard island, yes he is, give or take.

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Then why are there ones without holes, why do they always have knobs at the vertices, and why are they always in the shape of a dodecahedron or an icosahedron? And why aren’t they standardised?


What a rabbit hole, or rather a burrow with holes in different sizes.

My new favorite explanation: a galloromanic approximation of a Poincaré homology sphere, used as a representation of the universe.

Just look at the carved stone balls of the Scots:

Ok, that predates the Scots quite a bit. Still, apparently dodecaeders were à la mode early, so why not also make some lost form thingies at great expenses and poke some holes in them if you are on the Roman empire?
Let’s find some of those artifacts in South America and go full von Däniken, maybe?

And what’s up with that Arloff icosahedron, didn’t the maker pay attention?

I need to have a lay-down. I haven’t had this much fun with Roman history since the anniversary of Theodosius ascent to emperor.


So you don’t think of the Roman empire at least once a week?

They get mentioned in connection with Roman dodecahedra quite a lot. I just don’t see the connection, except that both are objects without clear function.


Neat. I’ve only ever seen it done with arrows!



There is this ancient thing called a US Bill of Rights. Modern experts now know that it was definitely created to make sure people could own unlimited assault rifles and keep people from getting abortions because they can use it that same way today.

And that’s after 232 comparatively well-documented years, folks.

Let’s get more comfortable with “I don’t know” as a provisional answer until/unless more evidence is discovered.


Bless you!