Around 100 have been found. What are these mysterious Roman objects? Here are thirty-three theories, in no particular order. Do you have one not listed here?
- Incense burners
- Candle holders
- Flower stands
- Survey instruments for distance estimates
- Gauges to calibrate water pipes
- Religious artifacts
- Fortune telling devices
- Devices for determining the optimal sowing date for winter grain
- Bludgeons, weapon ends of a flogging device
- Knitting looms for making gloves
- Weights for corners of fishing nets
- Scaffolding joints, nodes for building shelters to hold different sized poles together
- Gauges used for carving balls or spherical surfaces from wood or stone
- Devices to create round Ballista stones fired by Roman military catapults
- Children’s toys, to keep them entertained
- Massage devices
- Cooking containers to make food
- Representation of the ancient belief for the true shape of the Earth
- Guides for blowing glass
- Food storage containers
- Models used by Roman teachers to give different mathematical demonstrations
- Leather-working devices for making hats
- Mail carriers, wax filled rope threaded seal boxes used when sending a packet of letters of other items
- Weather gauges
- Caltrops for tripping up horses
- Game pieces from a lost game
- Guides for poles used to move and position heavy objects
- Parts of thrown rope connected weapons like Bolas
- Metal smith skill testers
- Wax seal embossers, unique pairs of which could be used as a verification system
- Purposeless decorations
One of the main problems with this theory is that there were easier and cheaper ways to make gloves.
About a hundred of these dodecahedra have been found from Wales to Hungary and Spain and to the east of Italy, with most found in Germany and France. Ranging from 4 to 11 centimetres (1.6 to 4.3 in) in size, they also vary in terms of textures. Most are made of bronze but some are made of stone.
Use as a measuring instrument of any kind seems improbable since the dodacahedrons were not standardised and come in many sizes and arrangements of their openings.
… Smaller dodecahedra with the same features (holes and knobs) and made from gold have been found in South-East Asia. They have been used for decorative purposes and the earliest items appear to be from the Roman epoch.
Where they are found, the archaeological context, may be a clue. Thirteen were found near military sites.
The sites are very diverse.
Dodecahedrons are amongst others found in military camps (13), graves (3), near a sanctuary (1), in treasures (2) and as a river discovery (3).
As astronomical measuring devices, they may have been used like this:
Interestingly enough, dodecahedra have been around since before Roman times and the Romans could have learned of these from the Etruscans; Etruscan dodecahedron from Monte Loffa:
There is another similar object without all of the usual holes:
Do you have a theory not listed here?