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Amateur archaeologists have found a mysterious Roman object

(CNN) — A group of amateur archaeologists in England have discovered one of the largest Roman dodecahedrons ever found, but mystery surrounds their use.

The 12-sided object is one of 33 known objects in Roman Britain, and one of approximately 130 extant in the world.

The dodecahedron is “one of the great mysteries of archaeology,” according to Norton Disney History and Archeology CollectionIt is an amateur group based in the English region of Lincolnshire, where the artifact was found in June.

The dodecahedron, about 8 cm in diameter, is hollow and covered with 12 holes of different sizes.

The 1,700-year-old piece will be on display at the Lincoln Museum from May 4 to early September.

“It is a real pleasure to have the Norton Disney dodecahedron join our museum…just a stone's throw from where it was found,” Andrea Martin, the museum's head of exhibitions and interpretations, said in a statement. press release Lincolnshire County Council. “The opening of the exhibition to coincide with the Lincoln Historical Festival is a great success.”

The statement describes the Dodecahedron as “one of the largest examples” ever discovered. However, experts still don't know exactly what the Romans used it for.

“It's absolutely one-of-a-kind,” said Richard Parker, curator of the history and archeology collection at Norton Disney, adding that no similar objects have ever been found. Furthermore, unlike the other dodecahedron, this piece did not sustain any damage.

“Ours is in fantastic condition,” Parker said. “It is complete and undamaged, and it was clearly highly valued by both whoever made it and who used it.” “So there must be a very important reason why it settled into the ground in this way.”


In 2023, twelve rare Roman faces were found in Lincolnshire, England, and will be on display at the Lincoln Museum. Credit: Norton Disney History and Archeology Collection

There are no descriptions of the dodecahedron in Roman literature, and no pictorial representations have been found in the mosaics, Parker told CNN. There are also several characteristics that make it difficult to determine its purpose.

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He said that all dodecahedrons had different sizes, which meant they were not used for measurement. Parker added that since there was no damage or signs of wear, it was unlikely to be a tool.

However, Parker's group has a theory.
“It was most likely for some sort of religious or ritual purpose,” he said. “The Romans were very superstitious and generally needed signs that would allow them to make decisions in their daily lives.”

One hint that supports this idea is that the piece was found near a small Roman statue of a Persian god with “strong religious ties,” Parker said. The artifact was discovered in 1989 by metal hunters, and this statue is often found in temples.

The organization plans to return to the dig site later this year to conduct new excavations, which Parker hopes will help establish the context of how the area was used. Parker was optimistic about solving the mystery, as this dodecahedron was found in an archaeological excavation area, while “many of the ones found 200 or 300 years ago had no context as to where they were found.”

“It's a very complex story that we're beginning to unravel,” he added.

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