May 30, 2024


They are known as one of archaeology’s great enigmas – hollow 12-sided objects from the Roman era with no known purpose or use.

Only 33 of these mysterious dodecahedrons have ever been found in Britain and now one, unearthed during an amateur archaeological dig after 1,700 years underground, is on display in Lincoln as part of a history festival.

Found in Norton Disney, near Lincoln, in the summer of 2023, is the artifact one of the largest of its kind yet foundmeasures 8 cm long and weighs 254g.

Its excavation was particularly important as it was found where it was placed 1,700 years ago, meaning the site could hold clues to its purpose. Only three other examples of dodecahedrons have been found in archaeological excavations.

Richard Parker, the secretary of the Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group, who found the item, said historians were no closer to figuring out what these objects were despite extensive research.

“The imagination runs wild when you think about what the Romans might have used it for. Magic, ritual or religion – we may never know,” he told the BBC.

There are no known descriptions or drawings of dodecahedrons in Roman literature, making their purpose unclear.

The Norton Disney group said the objects were not of a standard size, so they were not measuring devices, and they did not show signs of wear, so they were not used as tools.

It added that “a great deal of time, energy and skill was taken to create our dodecahedron, so it was not used for everyday purposes”.

The Norton Disney dodecahedron, made of a copper alloy, is the only example found in the Midlands. It is in excellent condition, without damage, and finished to a high standard.

Parker said it was found on top of a hill in a former large pit of some kind and appeared to have been placed there on purpose.

The amateur archaeologists who discovered the object plan to return to the site this summer to try to uncover more clues as to why it was there.

The group could only partially excavate the trench where it was found in 2023, along with some fourth-century Roman pottery, due to time and financial constraints, with the dodecahedron found on the penultimate day of digging.

They obtained permission to return and resume excavation in 2024, rely entirely on donations to fund their work.

The Norton Disney Dodecahedron is on display at the National Civil War Center at Newark Museum in Nottinghamshire, and from Saturday it will be at Lincoln Museum as part of the city’s Festival of History.



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