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Kenchester Dodecahedron


This is a small Roman object made of Copper alloy, but its use remains a mystery.

Called a dodecahedron because of its 12 sides, this object is one of only a handful found in Britain. This example was found just outside the Roman walled town of Magna at Kenchester, Herefordshire, in 1986.

All dodecahedra have holes of different sizes in each of their twelve sides. Could they be scientific instruments, perhaps used as gauges for metal rods? Maybe they are elaborate game pieces, or had a utilitarian use such as candle holders. Perhaps more convincingly, some experts have suggested that they were used for cosmology and astrology. Despite the many theories as to their use, no definitive identification has ever been made.

Dodecahedra are found elsewhere in the north-west provinces of the Roman Empire, particularly France, Switzerland and Germany, but are not very common. They are often found clustered in the same vicinity. In Britain they are found grouped around London & Hertfordshire, on Hadrians Wall, and in the south English-Welsh border area. The Magna dodecahedron falls into this latter group, which includes one discovered at Goodrich in the south of Herefordshire over a century ago in 1877-78, and one recovered at Lydney in Gloucestershire in 1928.

Excitingly a probable further fragment of dodecahedron has recently been found in a box of objects from Magna. These archaeological finds from the Roman town had been given to Hereford Museum in 1943, but were only properly looked through, re-boxed and inventoried in 1995. The fragment has now resurfaced and will be fully researched and identified.

Perhaps therefore there were two of these amazing and mysterious objects from the small Roman town of Magna in Herefordshire.

(Hereford Museum L217)




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