Mysterious 12-Sided Roman Object Unearthed in Belgium


| LAST UPDATE 01/29/2023

By Daria Appleby
Roman Dodecahedron Ancient Discoveries
DeAgostini via Getty Images

A mysterious bronze artifact, known as a Roman dodecahedron, has just been found. According to LiveScience, these objects date back to more than 1,600 years ago. It's recent unveiling has led to insightful research regarding the object. With their unique shape and surprising material, it is unheard of what these were used for until now...

The 12-sided hollow object is constructed with geometric shells of metal "the size of baseballs." Over the last 200 years, the studded shape has been found all across Northern Europe, and researchers could never understand what they were coming face to face with. Unlike other discoveries, such as ancient animal bones or human ruins from previous eras, there has been substantial context behind them. Guido Creemers, a curator at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren, Belgium, told LiveScience, "There have been several hypotheses for it — some kind of a calendar, an instrument for land measurement, a scepter, etcetera - but none of them is satisfying. We rather think it has something to do with non-official activities like sorcery, fortune-telling and so on." The first modern considered Roman dodecahedron was found in the 18th Century. However, 120 more have been found since then across Europe. Still, it is hard to conclude validations of the object, considering no written records have ever been found.

Roman Dodecahedron Ancient Rituals
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In the recent discovery, Creemers touched upon the idea that the objects were used for "magical purposes," such as telling the future, which was highly thought of during Roman times but forbidden under Christianity. Creemers elaborated, "These activities were not allowed, and punishments were severe," he explained. "That is possibly why we do not find any written sources." Explanations for the object have ranged from using them as weapons to even using it for a simple game as a rolling dice, described as "mace heads." However, most archeologists have focused their attention on the idea that the 12-sided object was used for magic rituals. According to Tibor Grüll, a historian at the University of Pécs in Hungary, these were only found in Roman Empire's northwestern, such as burial sites. This further suggests cults used them for magic rituals and restricted to be used by the "Gallo-Roman regions - the parts of the later Roman Empire influenced by Gauls or Celts."

Creemers acknowledged that although previous Roman dodecahedrons have been discovered, they were immediately placed as aesthetic artifacts in private sectors of for museum displays. Hence, archeologists did not have the facilities to research the object deeply. That being said, as the specific location origin of this object was established, this opened a whole new door to research opportunities.

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