A fragment of a mysterious ancient Roman object known as a dodecahedron was found in Belgium, Live Science reports.
The dodecahedron is a 12-sided, hollow metal object that has small balls attached to each corner. Similar ones have been discovered previously.
The fragment of this one was found by an amateur archaeologist in the Northern Flanders region of Belgium who was searching in a plowed field. The amateur archaeologist passed the fragment on to the Gallo-Roman Museum in Tongeren, a small city in eastern Belgium.
There are no written records mentioning dodecahedrons, so archaeologists have a number of theories about its use but few concrete answers. Some believe that dodecahedrons were used for taking measurements, as a knitting tool, a test of a metal smith’s skills, or even as a weapon. However, experts at the Gallo-Roman Museum believe that dodecahedrons were used for magical purposes.
“We rather think it has something to do with non-official activities like sorcery, fortune-telling, and so on,” Guido Creemers, a curator at the Gallo-Roman Museum, told Live Science.
Its magical purpose could be explained by a variety of factors. First, dodecahedrons were mostly found in the Gallo-Roman Empire, an offshoot of the Roman Empire in which magic rituals were known to have taken place. The lack of written records about dodecahedrons may point to a need to use these objects in secret, as divination and magic rituals were punished severely in the Roman Empire. Dodecahedrons have often been found near burial sites, where these rituals may have taken place.
The fragment will go on view at the Gallo-Roman Museum in February.