[Roman] Dodecahedrons

Consider where these things are found.

Why are they so frequently found, and always made of bronze?

They might be Go/Nogo gauges used for making things like spears, arrows, sling bullets, fasteners used in carpentry or machine parts. (Yes, they had machines with moving parts back then).

The factual answer is that we just don’t know. The coin measuring theory seems most likely to me, but that’s just a wild guess; no one truly knows.

They’ve been found all over.

Because lots of them were made.

I don’t think this is true. Wikipedia has a few cites for golden dodecahedra, though they’re scholarly articles which I don’t have access to.

They might be! They’re a great mystery and we don’t have anything but guesses about what they were used for or - really - if they were anything other than decorative.

Earlier thread:

The fact that they show wear and tear makes that unlikely. Unless - of course - why didn’t anyone see this before?

At 146 posts, the 2011 thread is rather comprehensive. Perhaps this should be merged with it.

Welcome to the SDMB, @otc . Your original title was a bit unclear, because a “dodecahedron” is just any 3-dimensional shape with 12 faces, not specifically just the mysterious Roman artifacts. I’ve edited your title to make that clearer.

And yeah, we’d all kind of like to know.

Do they? I don’t know too terribly much about them, but the wiki article says the opposite.

Some of them would make stellar fidget toys, though. All sorts of interesting knobs and angles.

Not found all over.

Just France, Belgium, West Germany, Netherlands, Britain.

Not in Eastern Empire, Mediterranean lands, North Africa.

And usually in military camps.

Bronze making was a perfected technology, artifacts durable, don’t rust.

Gold dodecahedron not practical, therefore decorative/commemorative.

My wife spins and knits, and there have been similar items used in those.

That is just one theory, however.

But all these things weren’t restricted to the parts of the Empire where the dodecahedron finds are restricted to - did people in the Eastern Empire or North Africa not also need to size arrows/coins/fasteners or spin textiles or whatever?

They could have simply already had a better method and so not adopted this new one.

But then, Roman logistics being what they were, that better method would already have been in use in Gallo-Romania, it’s not like the Romans kept technological advancements confined to one legion or region- so why would it have been replaced by the inferior dodecahedrons in only one region?

And this better method, it left no archaeological trace?

Those were the areas that Roman legions continued to have to subdue after the Republic collapsed. What the Romans called Asia and Africa were vassal states that rarely needed actual warfare to work out problems.

That implies that the objects were military devices that were invented sometime after 50BCE or so. Maybe they were new solutions to an old need, or maybe changes in weaponry or other work tools of legions forced something new to take care of them.

One other possibility is that traders for tin, amber, or other minerals only found in those places used them for measurement or quality.

Just guesses, but the dispersal area is intriguing.

Someone has to cavil: the plural is “dodecahedra”.

In English, either plural is fine.

But they were the frequent sites of Roman internal wars during the Imperial era. If it was a specifically military tech, it should show up all over the Roman military world, the way patterns of armour and weapons also proliferated Empire-wide. After all, the legions themselves were mobile - A legion might be raised for a war in Dacia, participate in suppressing Judean revolts, be stationed in Egypt, campaign in Syria, then off to fight in Germania and end up back in Egypt. Their supporting tech would be the same.

Revolts happened all over, true. Was putting down a revolt the equivalent of actual warfare, though? They were bloody, brutal, but usually short. Check your list against the List of Roman wars and battles. That page is much longer, consisted of longer campaigns with many more troops, and ranged over a larger part of the world.

If you were looking for U.S. military artifacts, you’ve have a much huger chance of finding them in South Korea than in Panama. Archaeology depends upon both chance of preservation and original quantity. A new finding site might change everything, but I’m not making any greater claim than that the current pattern is intriguing.

Having seen Gladiator, I have this image of these tough, beat up men sitting around the campfire at night knitting new clothing.

When it was legion against legion, yes, it was. I’m not talking about putting down some Judean hill bandits.

Eh? How many of my list are year-hyphen-year events? Not so short, those.

Just the siege of Masada alone was a months-long event involving massive earthworks followed by taking a fort, and was only one event in one 7-year long entry in my list.

That page includes some of the campaigns in my list, and details individual battles, whereas mine mostly lists campaigns except for the Imperial crises. Of course it’s a longer list.

Anyway, I wasn’t saying the Romans only fought civil wars. My point was just that the Roman Imperial army was actively militarily engaged in Africa and Asia, not merely passively occupying.

And you completely skip my other point, which is that the legions doing the longer campaigns were the same legions doing the smaller stuff. So if they were using some sort of tech in Gaul, they’d use the same tech in Syria. Why would they not?

This analogy doesn’t work - the Asian province was neither Panama nor Korea. It was more like Afghanistan, and yes, we’d expect to find examples of a wide range of Roman military tech there.

And we do have a lot of Roman military tech from Asia. The Roman Syrian garrison of Dura Europos is where our best preserved example of a scutum is from, for instance, and Egypt has also supplied lots of military finds.

No, any lack of dodecahedrons in Asia and Africa wouldn’t be explainable just by a lack of military presence there.

What I’m not hearing is a convincing argument for why a piece of tech would not be found in Asia or Africa.