The “Roman dodecahedron,” made of bronze or stone and shaped like a twelve-faced polyhedron, has sparked various speculations about its purpose. Some experts believe it might have served as a measuring instrument, while others consider it nothing more than a decorative candleholder. Historians and archaeologists have been working diligently to unravel the mysteries surrounding these enigmatic ancient artifacts. Yet, numerous questions remain unanswered. Despite significant advancements in archaeology, certain enigmas of ancient civilizations still perplex us.
Presented here are “10 Fascinating Facts about the Roman dodecahedron,” which symbolize a puzzle within the field of archaeology. They serve as a reminder that, despite the significant progress we’ve made, many ancient mysteries are still awaiting our exploration and understanding.
1. The Mysterious Roman Dodecahedron:
The Roman dodecahedron is a hollow object made of stone or bronze, varying in size from 3.8 centimeters to 11.3 centimeters. It is believed to have been produced during the Roman era, spanning from the 2nd to the 4th century AD. Approximately 100 Roman dodecahedra have been discovered thus far, with findings in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Hungary, with the majority found in western Germany and France. What’s intriguing is that these dodecahedra, found across a wide geographical area and in substantial numbers, are not mentioned in contemporary Roman literature and are absent from artwork.
2. Exploring the Use and Origin of the Ancient Roman Dodecahedra:
The ancient Roman dodecahedra are small hollow objects made of bronze or stone, with a dodecahedral shape. Their purpose remains unclear, and various suggestions have been proposed, including aiding in knitting gloves and determining winter grain sowing dates. Most of these enigmatic items have been found in France and Germany, with diameters ranging from 4 to 11 centimeters. However, there is no mention of these objects in contemporary records, mosaics, reliefs, or other artistic expressions, raising numerous questions. Their exact purpose has been debated for over two centuries, with some archaeologists suggesting that these mysterious objects may have been used to support candles, given that a few candle remains have been discovered.
3. Use, History, and Controversy:
These theories also suggest alternative uses, such as dice for an ancient game. Some authors even propose that these artifacts could have been employed for measuring distances (surveying tools), or determining the right date for planting crops in winter, calibrating aqueducts, or serving as religious items or items used in various rituals. However, some experts argue that these enigmatic objects might have had simpler uses, possibly as children’s toys. Considering that most of these items were primarily found in peripheral regions of the Roman Empire, where Roman legions were a dominant presence, the Roman dodecahedra could have had a military function.
4. Roman Dodecahedra: The Enigma of Ancient Tools:
One popular contemporary hypothesis regarding the dodecahedra is that they were used as weaving tools to create gloves. Regardless of whether this mystery is solved, Martin Hallett’s YouTube video has inspired others to attempt making their own gloves using this weaving technique. He used a 3D-printed replica of a Roman dodecahedron to craft gloves to test his idea. This notion can account for the various sizes of dodecahedra, producing gloves of different sizes.
However, one of the most accepted theories is that Roman dodecahedra were used as measuring devices, more precisely, for measuring distances on the battlefield. They may have been used to calculate the trajectory of projectiles. This can explain the different-sized holes in the dodecahedra. Similar theories include their use as measuring and leveling devices. Nevertheless, neither of these theories has garnered substantial evidence, and the exact way in which dodecahedra were employed for these purposes remains inadequately explained.