We've Found Hundreds Of These Weird Artifacts, And No One Knows What They Are
Poke around on the web, and you'll keep hearing about "archaeological mysteries," and we'll be honest with you: These mysteries are usually pretty lame. The archaeologists put out a statement about having not determined the nature of some broken pot or rock, and then websites will blow this up as though it's a crazy conundrum. Yeah, the object is unexplained, but that's nowhere as surprising as the writers claim. Just because something's unidentified doesn't mean it's inexplicable or weird.
Today, however, we're not going to show you some boring shard. We're going to show you the Roman dodecahedron. Look at the picture above. That's ... that's something all right, isn't it? But what is it? No one knows.
We found the first of these in an English field in 1739. We've since found over 100 more, in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. They date back to Roman times, to the second or third century. But we haven't found any clues in art or writings from back then to say just what they are.
These probably weren't just to look cool. They would have been too hard to make, and they look too standardized. You might associate dodecahedrons with dice, but these wouldn't have been useful as dice, because of the way they're weighted. The Greeks used to associate dodecahedrons with astronomy and math. Maybe these were some kind of measuring instrument, for pipe widths, or for grain? Some have been found with coins, though they don't appear to have been valuable—maybe they stored coins, or checked for counterfeit coins?
Maybe they held candles. Maybe they helped people knit. Maybe they guided soldiers as they lined up distant shots.
One dodecahedron was found close to a staff made of bone, raising the possibility that these were the heads of staffs. This is the explanation we choose to believe. On the off-chance that a legion of Roman sorceresses and necromancers are preparing for battle, we want to respect them so they'll be on our side.
This fact came from the One Cracked Fact newsletter. Want more like this, straight from your email inbox, without any ads or popups? Join here:
For more mysteries of the dirt, check out:
Ancient Hebrew Inscribed on a Rock in New Mexico
An Ancient Coded Papyrus Turns Out To Be A Horny Pamphlet
Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.
Top image: Eamonn O'Mahony, Gallo-Roman Museum