Mysterious Roman dodecahedron found in Norton Disney

Source Lincolnshire County Council News Feed. Image from: Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group

Thought to date from the third or fourth century, the copper alloy, hollow, 12-sided object was found during an amateur archaeological ‘dig’ in Norton Disney near Lincoln, in summer 2023.

It is one of only 33 such dodecahedrons found in Britain, and the first to have been found in the Midlands. It is also one of the largest examples to be found, measuring around 8cm tall and weighing 245g.

Where most other examples are found damaged, or as fragments, the Norton Disney dodecahedron is complete and in remarkable condition after 1,700 years of being buried.

Their purpose has been lost in the mists of time, as there are no references to them in Roman texts or depictions of them. Based on scientific evidence, it is believed they were not practical items, but associated with Roman rituals and religious practice.

The Norton Disney dodecahedron will exhibited in its home county for the first time when it goes on display at Lincoln Museum from Saturday 4 May until early September 2024.

Alongside the dodecahedron display, as part of the festival visitors can meet the mighty Romans themselves in the museum’s atrium, where the legion has returned to ‘Lindum Colonia’. And explore some of the many other Roman treasures that have been unearthed across the city and county in the archaeology gallery.

For those craving a deeper dive into Lincoln’s history, don’t miss out on a guided tour of Posterngate, where you can explore the hidden Roman gateway beneath the city streets – book early to avoid missing out.

Andrea Martin, exhibitions and interpretations manager at Lincoln Museum, said: “It’s a real pleasure to have the Norton Disney dodecahedron joining us, being on public display for the first time in Lincolnshire, just a stone’s throw from where it was found. And to have the opening of the display coincide with the Lincoln Festival of History is a real coup for local history fans and visitors to the city.

“The whole Festival of History is a chance for residents and visitors alike to discover more about Lincoln’s story and Lincoln Museum is the perfect place to start that journey of discovery.”

Richard Parker, secretary of the North Disney History and Archaeology Group who found the dodecahedron, said: “Despite all the research that has gone into our dodecahedron, and others like it, we are no closer to finding out exactly what it is and what it might have been used for. The mystery that surrounds it has provoked quite a reaction. Our find received worldwide press attention earlier this year and many people have left us messages with varied and somewhat contradictory suggestions about its purpose.

“The dodecahedron is an extremely tactile object and, having been privileged to have handled it after it’s 1,700 year burial, the imagination races when thinking about what the Romans may have used it for. Magic, rituals or religion; we perhaps may never know.

“What we do know is the Norton Disney dodecahedron was found on the top of a hill in a former large pit of some kind. It seems it was deliberately placed there. Why would someone bury an object like this? Did it have religious or ritualistic significance? What else might we find nearby?

“We now have plans in place to return to the same area in June and more fully excavate where we found the dodecahedron. Last year we ran out of time and money, so we hope to discover more clues about why it was placed there and its possible purpose.”

Come see the dodecahedron for yourself at Lincoln Museum on Danes Terrace in the city. Entry is free. Charges apply for the Posterngate tours.

Don’t let your journey stop here! Be sure to visit the Castle Zone at Lincoln Castle to take a trip through time. And head to the Victorian Zone at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life where a Victorian adventure awaits you.

For a full list of events taking place across the city for the Lincoln Festival of History, see the Visit Lincoln website.

Published: 26th April 2024 by LCC

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