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What am I?

This is a Roman dodecahedron and nobody knows why.

Over a hundred of them have been found, sometimes with hoards of coins. So they had a value. They have been found across Europe and Britain, but not in Italy. They would have been pretty work-intensive to make.

They are hollow cast objects with twelve flat pentagonal faces. Each face is pierced with a hole. The holes vary in shape in pairs (the hole opposite is the same size). The corners have knobs braised on. They are made of an alloy. They range in size from one and a half to four and a half inches. Here are some images.

The best guess is candlestick holder, since two were found with wax inside. I’m inclined to this one, though I’d like to know whether they had teeny candles.

Other guesses are to measure the width of something or the size of things at a distance, though there’s an awful lot of variation for that.

Game pieces, but you couldn’t throw them like dice. The differently-sized holes would make them fall not-randomly.

Purely ornamental, like cane toppers. Seems unlikely to me, since they are so uniform in design and construction.

It’s been puzzling me all afternoon. It can go puzzle you for a while.

November 27, 2020 — 7:15 pm
Comments: 18