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WHAT IS THE ROMAN DODECAHEDRON? THE MYSTERY IS STILL UNSOLVED

When it comes to determining the function of the Roman artifacts they discover, archaeologists are seldom baffled. Everyone is perplexed by the Roman dodecahedron, though. At excavation sites, especially in central Europe, more than 100 of these hollow, knobby, metallic polyhedrons with 12 sides have been found. There is currently no conclusive explanation for their purpose or function.

This Roman dodecahedron derives from the 2nd or 3rd century in Stuttgart, Germany.

The mysterious geometric shapes are made of copper alloy. The 12 pentagonal faces each have a hole with a diameter ranging from 4 to 11 cm. Oddly, in a single dodecahedron, the hole sizes are not all the same. Additionally, they differ from one dodecahedron to another. The five globular knobs at the vertices of the pentagonal faces are present on every Roman dodecahedron. In addition to their holes, the dodecahedra’s various sizes and patterns are puzzling.

Roman Dodecahedra discoveries

Some of the dodecahedra that were discovered on the antiquities market have no archaeological background. In supervised, scientific excavations, others surfaced.

In Arles, France, archaeologists discovered the southernmost Roman dodecahedron. The spot on Hadrian’s Wall in Northern Britain provided the most northwesterly illustration. Bordeaux is where another another item originates. They have also been seen as far east as Zagreb and Vienna.

The archaeological background of the cast dodecahedra shows a clear lack of uniformity. Samples have been found in Roman military camps, public baths, and temples. A Roman theater, a mausoleum, and a well filled with a lot of trash all had dodecahedra in them. A few also appeared in currency hoards, indicating that they were valuable items.

There are no hints to be found even from an examination of the layers of earth around excavation sites from the second to the fourth century CE. Because of these variances in the finds, those seeking to explain their function have been perplexed. They are even more mysterious because Roman writings make no mention of them at all.

Two dodecahedra and one icosahedron 3rd century CE.

What Purpose Did a Dodecahedron Serve?

Over two hundred archaeologists, historians, mathematicians, and enthusiasts have proposed hypotheses on the function of these strange artifacts since the first record of a dodecahedron in 1739 and up to the present day.

Cosmological or Astrolog

Dodecahedra were most commonly created in Gallo-Roman regions, where an old Celtic civilisation before Roman culture. As a result, mysticism is included in many ideas. According to others, the dodecahedra served a religious purpose, with the twelve holes signifying celestial events. Others claim they served a talismanic purpose. They could have dangled from a belt, though, as they are too big to hang around the neck. Alternately, they would have been a perfect match for a leather handbag.

The idea that they had some role in astronomical computations is one that is more likely to be true. They could have leaned against a stick or sat on a flat surface.

This idea holds that a dodecahedron may line up with the sun, which, at a certain time of day and in a particular season, would shine through two holes. The proponents of this idea demonstrated how a dodecahedron might forecast astronomical phenomena using intricate mathematical computations. In his paper The Hypothesis, G.M.C. Wagemans utilized a series of calculations to demonstrate that a number of dodecahedra may determine the ideal timing for sowing winter grain in particular Northern European locales.

Some doubters challenge astronomical and mathematical ideas. They come to the conclusion that the Roman dodecahedra could not have been utilized to compute astronomical events because to the variations in hole sizes and overall size. The metal dodecahedron’s role as a modern-day theodolite for measuring the distances necessary for land surveying is also supported by this idea.

Dodecahedron from Thermae.

Divinations

The purpose of the Roman dodecahedron has been the subject of simpler theories from other thinkers. Some have claimed that it may be used for divination or soothsaying, in which case the seers would toss the metal item and read it like a dice. The absence of any written inscriptions or symbols on the sides, however, works against this goal. The projecting knobs would have made rolling or hurling a Roman dodecahedron nearly difficult. Therefore, it is improbable that it was a divination tool or gaming item.

Holder for candles?

Researchers have hypothesized that some dodecahedra were candleholders since wax remnants have been found in several of them. For two reasons, though, many experts have rejected this idea. First, the wax residue is most likely a byproduct of the lost wax casting process. Second, if these objects were candlestick holders, why haven’t archaeologists discovered even one in Italy or other parts of the Roman Empire that were near the Mediterranean? Dodecahedra finds are unusual in the large field of Roman archaeology due to their specific geographic location. Other sorts and styles of bronze castings, on the other hand, are found all across the Empire.

Knitter?

The most inventive theory put up by amateurs includes using a dodecahedron to crochet or knit a wool glove. A gifted student recently created a 3-D print of a Roman dodecahedron and applied a glove to it. The student then captured the procedure in a YouTube video.

Making a winter hand-covering on a Roman dodecahedron is an excellent idea because it goes well with the winter geography discovery places. Additionally, it’s possible that the varying hole sizes on the faces represent the different glove finger sizes.

Decoration?

The Roman dodecahedron could have only been there for decoration. It’s conceivable that the peculiar accessory hanging from a rope on a belt may have given a costume a little more swagger. Southeast Asian archaeological sites from the third and fourth century BCE have beads with globular protrusions that are similar to polyhedral shapes. However, the notion that Roman dodecahedra were just ornamental ignores the irregular shapes of the circular holes.

Will the mystery surrounding the Roman dodecahedron’s purpose ever be resolved? The numerous explanations that have been proposed over the past 200 years suggest that the answer to the mystery may prove to be difficult.


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