When a gang of history buffs decided to play detective in the wilds of eastern England, they weren’t expecting to stumble upon the ancient equivalent of hidden treasure.
Richard Parker, the Sherlock of the Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group, spilled the archaeological tea to McClatchy News, confessing that the site initially looked about as exciting as a Monday morning commute.
So, what was this mystical object?
A copper alloy Gallo Roman dodecahedron, because why settle for ordinary when you can have a 12-sided mystery?
Standing at a majestic 3 inches tall and 3.4 inches wide, this bad boy weighed in at half a pound.
After a geophysical survey, the team dug four trenches and started their two-week excavation. They unearthed “lots of Roman pottery dating from the second to the fourth century, some animal teeth and bone, and some small metal finds from the Roman period.” That is until the second to last day of the project when a “very strange metal find” was uncovered from one of the trenches “without warning,” according to Parker.
For 6 years, this bunch of amateur Indiana Joneses had been finding the usual archaeological suspects scattered across England.
In June, armed with shovels and an undying spirit, they descended upon a Roman site near Lincolnshire, a mere 115 miles north of London.
They’re finding Roman pottery left, right, and center – basically, the pottery equivalent of finding socks in a laundry basket.
1700 Year-Old Roman Dodecahedron: The Verdict
Now, experts claim these dodecahedra are like the rockstars of ancient hollow metal objects with each side a pentagon with snazzy rounded knobs.
This discovery marks the 33rd dodecahedron sighting in Roman Britain, but it’s the first to grace the Midlands region.
A volunteer with the Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group unearthed the dodecahedron in the Lincolnshire village of Norton Disney over the summer. The group’s secretary, Richard Parker, tells Smithsonian magazine the artifact is “the find of a lifetime.”
“[Dodecahedrons] are one of archaeology’s great enigmas,” he says. “Our example is remarkable. It’s in an excellent condition—considering it’s been buried for 1,700 years—and complete with no damage.
Some Roman dodecahedrons date to as early as the first century C.E. However, no visual or textual references to the objects have been found in historical records. Lacking context, the dodecahedron has become an enduring mystery of the Roman Empire.
“Nobody knows for certain how the Romans used them,” wrote Smithsonian magazine’sSarah Kuta last year. “Some theories are that they functioned as measuring devices, calendars, ornamental scepter toppers, weapons or tools.”