No, These Mysterious Roman Artifacts Probably Aren't Knitting Aides
Earlier this month, we wrote about the Roman dodecahedron, an ancient object archaeologists have found in hundreds of sites across Europe. A bunch of readers contacted us to point out that these artifacts aren't so mysterious after all: They were used to knit gloves. Readers commented this on the site, on Facebook, and by email. Few newsletters ever get as much feedback as this one did.
Researchers have proposed many theories about the dodecahedrons. We included the knitting theory along with some others in the article, because it sounds like as good a theory as any. But when we hear people insisting that the mystery has been solved and the knitting answer is the answer, suddenly, we feel defensive and want to look closer. And once we do, the knitting theory doesn't sound very strong at all.
As far as we know, knitting didn't exist in ancient Roman times. Knitting wouldn't be invented for nearly a thousand years after these dodecahedrons were made. Now, it's possible these artifacts are the earliest evidence of knitting and we need to revise our timelines accordingly, but you'd think we'd dig up knitting needles before digging up this one specialized tool for knitting gloves.
However, the Romans did other stuff with cloth, so let's say they maybe knitted. The dodecahedrons would still be a needlessly complicated device that could be easily replaced with something much simpler. The knitting theory spread so widely because of viral videos in which people make gloves using replica dodecahedrons:
Knitters who watch the videos notice some trickery. Those differently sized holes needn't produce differently sized fingers at all, because the pegs that hold the yarn are equally spaced no matter the size of the hole. As it happens, the people making the videos don't claim that Romans actually used dodecahedrons to make gloves. The videos just demonstrate how you could make a glove using a dodecahedron, much like a fun lifehack video might show that you can use a pair of pants to split the airflow out of a fan.
In our article, we noted that you should be skeptical when you see something labeled an unsolved mystery. You should be even more skeptical when you hear someone say that an ancient mystery has finally been solved—especially when all the people trying to solve the mystery are still trying even after hearing the supposed solution.
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For more possible solutions to mysteries, check out:
7 Famous 'Unsolved' Mysteries (Science Solved Years Ago)
10 Famous Unsolved Mysteries Easily Explained by Science
Goseck Circle: The Murder Observatory
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