A rare Roman dodecahedron found in England has puzzled archaeologists. Photo

Maria ShevchukNews
A newly discovered dodecahedron photographed during excavations. Source: Norton Disney Archaeology Group

The Roman dodecahedron found in the UK has become a puzzle for scholars. After all, there is no mention of these 12-sided hollow objects in texts or images of that era.

The archaeological team discovered the perfectly crafted dodecahedron near the village of Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, England, on the penultimate day of excavations in June 2023. Due to time and financial constraints, the trench where it was found was not fully excavated. Archaeologists plan to return there next month to get more information about the mysterious artifact, ScienceAlert writes.

It became the 33rd dodecahedron found in England.

A rare Roman dodecahedron found in England has puzzled archaeologists. Photo

What makes it special

There are several factors that make this find special. First, the size – it is considered one of the largest specimens in Britain. Secondly, the high level of preservation of the object.

"Our object is in absolutely fantastic condition. It's completely intact and shows no signs of wear and tear," says Richard Parker, Secretary of the NDAG (Norton Disney Archaeological Group).

A rare Roman dodecahedron found in England has puzzled archaeologists. Photo

The scientist also said that the dodecahedron has already begun to be studied to obtain more information. In particular, a manual X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, a method used to analyze the composition of elements, was carried out. Archaeometallurgist Jerry McDonnell, an expert in the use and production of metals by humans in the past, found that the composition of the object was predominantly a mixture of an alloy of copper (75%), tin (7%), and lead (18%).

The Norton Disney dodecahedron measures about 8 cm across and weighs 245 grams. It was also scanned using a 3D scanner in collaboration with the University of Lincoln, and later this year it will be sent to the University of Newcastle for further scientific analysis.

The site itself is also interesting. Pottery sherds from several trenches date from the Iron Age to the Roman period, indicating the long, continuous use of this land.

Not far from the site is a Roman villa that was excavated in 1935. Skeletal remains found in the villa indicate that it was inhabited in the late Roman period and the site was later used for burials. In 1989, a metal detector discovered a figure of a Romano-British horseman deity near the Roman villa, which is now kept in the British Museum.

Much remains to be learned about the site of the discovery and the dodecahedron itself. The trench where it was found was not fully excavated in 2023 due to time and financial constraints (the NDAG relies solely on donations), as the find was discovered on the penultimate day of excavation.

A rare Roman dodecahedron found in England has puzzled archaeologists. Photo

But the NDAG will return to the site in June this year to reopen several trenches and completely excavate the pit where the dodecahedron was found. Hopefully, this will give a better idea of what exactly this area was used for and why the mysterious artifact was placed there.

In the 18th century, about 130 dodecahedrons were discovered throughout the former Roman Empire. Interestingly, most of them were found in Northern Europe and Britain, and none in Italy.

Dodecahedrons look quite complex, with a series of circular holes and handles framing them. It took a very skilled craftsman to make them. They are made of copper alloy and would have been quite expensive, which adds to the intrigue.

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