Roman dodecahedron

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Roman dodecahedron
Roman dodecahedron found in Germany

A Roman dodecahedron is a small hollow object made of bronze or stone, with a dodecahedral shape: twelve flat pentagonal faces, each face having a circular hole of varying diameter in the middle, the holes connecting to the hollowed-out center. Roman dodecahedra date from the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE.

About a hundred of these dodecahedra have been found[1] 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.

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;[2] devices for determining the optimal sowing date for winter grain;[3] gauges to calibrate water pipes or 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.[4][5]


  1. ^ The earliest finding is reported in 1739 and since then the count has mounted to 116 similar objects; Michael Guggenberger (2013), The Gallo-Roman Dodecahedron, The Mathematical Intelligencer , Vol. 35, Dec.2013, Iss. 4 , pp 56–60
  2. ^ Sparavigna A., (2012) Roman Dodecahedron as dioptron: analysis of freely available data, Arxiv, [1]
  3. ^ Wagemans G.M.C., The Roman Pentagon Dodecahedron, An Astronomic Measuring Instrument for Determining the optimal sowing date for winter grain [2]; this webpage also has a map of the distribution of the dodecahedra
  4. ^ Henig, Martin (1984), Religion in Roman Britain, Routledge, p. 128, ISBN 0-7134-6047-4 
  5. ^ Kilford, L.J.P. (December 2004), A Mathematical Tourist in Germany, Mathematics Today 40 (6): 204 


Media related to Roman dodecahedra at Wikimedia Commons

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