The Roman Dodecahedrons

Antiquities Scheme / British Museum
Antiquities Scheme / British Museum

Dodecahedron means a geometrical object with twelve faces. The Roman dodecahedrons are small objects (usually bronze and between 4 centimeters to 11 centimeters in size) with twelve equally-sized faces and holes in the middle of each side that surrounds a hollow middle.

Approximately 100 of these objects have been found throughout Europe. They are estimated to be at least 1,800 years old. In fact, nobody knows what they are or what were they used for. The Romans were famous for writing documening everything from the beliefs about their gods to the eating utensils, but there isn’t a single document that even mentions these mysterious objects.

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The number of sides may be significant and may represent the 12 signs of the Zodiac and therefore may have indicated supernatural or astronomical uses. Or each side could represent a month of the year and have been used to determine the best times to plant and harvest crops.

On the other hand, the notoriously famous Roman builders could have used them for scientific purposes such as water gauges or for some kind of architectural aid.

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Other less technical explanations include the objects were used as dice or as some other kind of entertainment devices such as a child’s toy. The dodecahedron could easily be carried by Roman soldiers on military campaigns to be used as some sort of pastime during times when direct combat was not taking place.

While most researchers believe the objects to be of Roman origin, it is not out of the question that they originated as a religious object in a society conquered by the Romans and the invading Roman army took the objects and used them for similar religious purposes in their own form of worship.

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Other theorists have put forward the theory that the artifacts were used in warfare as projectiles or in some way holding together weapons of war.

No matter which theory is correct, the Roman dodecahedrons are a fascinating part of the Roman culture and they are worth studying. Judging by the number of Roman dodecahedrons found, there are most likely many more out there jsut waiting to be discovered.

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