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These fist-sized bronze Roman artifacts found in France, Switzerland and Germany pose a fascinating problem for archaeologists: they just don’t have a clear purpose, but many are covered in symbols, some undecipherable and others relating to the Zodiac. But for all the speculation on their use, including that they may have been surveying instruments, some experts believe the Roman dodecahedra were merely decorative candlesticks.
A Roman dodecahedron is a small hollow object made of bronze or stone, with a dodecahedral shape: twelve flat pentagonal faces, each having a circular hole in the middle which connects to the hollowed-out center. Roman dodecahedra date from the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE. About a hundred of these dodecahedra have been found from Wales to Hungary and to the east of Italy, with most found in Germany and France. Ranging from 4 cm to 11 cm in size, they also vary in terms of textures. Most of them are made of bronze but some also seem to be made of stone. The function or use of the dodecahedra is unknown; no mention of them has been found in contemporary accounts or pictures of the time. Speculated uses include candlestick holders (wax was found inside one example); dice; survey instruments; devices for determining the optimal sowing date for winter grain; that they were used to calibrate water pipes; and army standard bases. It has also been suggested that they may have been religious artifacts of some kind. This latter speculation is based on the fact that most of the examples have been found in Gallo-Roman sites.
From the Roman twenty-sided die auctioned for $18k in 2008 (pictured above), to the discovery of pieces in the tombs of pharaohs in ancient Egypt
An archaeologist recently published a paper musing over the large amount of dice and playing pieces found in a 4500 year old city in Pakistan.
escapist magazine / Gamers Ruled Ancient City in Pakistan
Plutarch, the famous Greek historian reportedly identified the dodecahedron as a vital instrument for zodiac signs. The twelve sides represent the twelve animals in the circle of the Zodiac, but even this theory comes under contest when the argument of the knobs as decoration is presented.
reply to post by jiggerj
There are twelve positions that coincide with the Roman calendar that switched to 12 months in a year in 700 BCE. In order to keep this new calender fresh in the minds of the citizens, these dodecahedra were designed so that the current month would be positioned at the top. How's that for a stretch of the imagination?
reply to post by bigfatfurrytexan
You burn a candle with the candle protruding from the hold corresponding the the sign you are under (or praying to).