Ah, the Roman Empire. Full of gladiators, lion fights, betrayal, and conquering. The Roman Empire was the place to be, you know, back in the day. Pretty much the entirety of Western Civilization owes something or another to the success and pure domination of the Romans. So what is the mystery of the Roman Dodecahedrons?
While we typically think of Rome itself, at its peak, the empire stretched from the deserts of Arabia to the isle of Great Britain, and it is here in the province of Britannia where our focus is today. You see, there are very few records of what happened in Britain when it was under Roman rule.
Other than its initial conquest, not enough happened here to warrant notice from Roman historians. What we do know is a result of archaeological evidence, and one artifact, in particular, is hard to explain. They are known as Roman Dodecahedrons, and they are expertly crafted…things that we can’t tell.
Who Were the Roman Dodecahedrons?
If you’re rusty on your geometry, a dodecahedron (Doe-Deck-A-He-Drin) is a twelve-sided object, where each face is a pentagon. The Roman Dodecahedrons are not merely funny looking balls of metal, though. They are well-crafted pieces of engineering from an era that lacked widespread expertise.
Each face of the Roman Dodecahedron has perfectly circular holes. Each with different diameters, with a hollow center. The result is a 12-sided object with 11 or 12 different sized holes, such that you could see straight through the object. To be clear, there’s nothing obviously supernatural or otherworldly about these objects.
They were undoubtedly conceivable to make. Still, the complete lack of record of what they were used for, along with their apparent value, leaves some historians and archaeologists scratching their heads.
But What Does a Roman Dodecahedron Do?!
Nobody knows! No, literally, scientists and historians are stumped. Somewhere around 100 of these Roman Dodecahedrons have been found throughout Europe. There isn’t a consistency to where they have been found, and there is no documented evidence whatsoever that they even existed. In other words, not one surviving document from the era says anything about these well-crafted objects.
Which reminds me, what era are we talking about? All of the discovered the Roman Dodecahedron thus far date to the 2nd-3rd centuries AD, so anywhere from the year 101-299. That’s quite a span-of-time to NOT write anything down about something.
We write entire scholarly papers on the plastic at the end of shoelaces, and you’re telling me there wasn’t ONE person in the 2nd century willing to write down what these things were?
Is There Hard Evidence of the Roman Dodecahedrons?
So, without hard evidence, the experts are left with giving their best guesses. And their best guesses are all over the map. Some think that the different sized holes were a way to make this object a universal candlestick. No matter the size of the candle, it should fit in at least one of these holes, and it makes sense to a certain degree.
Still, the experts also find that the craftsmanship involved likely would have made this an extremely expensive candlestick, and that doesn’t make sense considering you can just reshape a candle fairly easily—it is wax, after all.
Another suggestion is that it was some kind of military viewfinder, which would allow soldiers to determine how far away something is, but this hasn’t gained traction because these aren’t found in military archaeological sites.
Other suggestions are that they were playing dice, fortune-telling devices, religious artifacts, astronomy tools, and knitting looms. In short, NOBODY has ANY IDEA. One guy says candlestick, another says knitting loom, another says it’s for fortune-telling? Yeah, I’ll take “People Who Don’t Know What They’re Talking About” for $800, Alex.
The closest thing to concrete evidence we have is that a few of these have been found in coin stashes, implying that they are valuable. But beyond that, nobody has any idea. If you happen to get your hands on one of these, maybe try knitting a thinking cap you can lend to one of these researchers.