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Disembodied wooden phallus could be a Roman sex toy

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Archaeologists excavating at the Roman fort of Vindolanda have found a phallus made of wood, which may have been a Roman sex toy from almost 2,000-years-ago.

Vindolanda (translated as “white field” or “white moor”) was a Roman auxiliary fort, situated on the fringes of the Roman Empire near Hadrian’s Wall to guard a major highway called the Stanegate.

No less than nine Roman forts were built of timber or stone at Vindolanda from around AD 85 to AD 370, creating one of the most complex archaeological sites in Britain and a unique cultural legacy of frontier life.

The phallus was initially thought to be a darning tool, as it was uncovered in a 2nd century fort ditch alongside the remains of leather shoes, dress accessories, small tools and leather waste cut-offs.

However, a new analysis by researchers from Newcastle University and University College Dublin, have now suggested that the wooden artefact is a disembodied phallus used as a sex toy, the first known example discovered anywhere in the Roman world.

The Roman’s believed that the phallus was the embodiment of a masculine generative power, and was one of the tokens of the safety of the state (sacra Romana) giving protection and good fortune.

Across the length of Hadrian’s Wall and at military installations, 59 known etchings of male genitalia, otherwise known as a fascinus or fascinum were carved at various locations to symbolise the male phallus.

They were also often depicted in painted frescoes and mosaics, or formed part of the decoration of other objects such as being embellished onto a knife handle or incised into pottery. Small, portable phalli made of bone or metal were commonly worn as pendants around the neck.

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, the researchers explore three possible explanations for the phallus’ purpose – One being a sexual implement, another as a pestle, and the third being ornamental in function which could be slotted into a statue.

Dr Rob Collins, Senior Lecturer, Archaeology, Newcastle University, explains: “The size of the phallus and the fact that it was carved from wood raises a number of questions to its use in antiquity. We know that the Romans and Greeks used sexual implements – this object from Vindolanda could be an example of one.”

Antiquity

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.11

Header Image Credit : Antiquity Journal

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

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Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.

The discovery was made at Smallhythe Place, a late 15th or early 16th century property managed by the National Trust near Tenterden in Kent, England.

Prior to the decline of the port and shipyard at Smallhythe during the 16th century, the local community played a crucial role in the shipbuilding industry, crafting vessels for notable figures, including members of royalty.

As part of a project funded by several UK institutions, over 60 volunteers from the National Trust participated in the excavation, along with professional archaeologists, students, and members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group.

The excavation has revealed traces of a Roman settlement that was occupied between the 1st and 3rd centuries, including an incredibly rare figurine made of pipeclay that depicts the god, Mercury.

Mercury was a major god in the Roman pantheon and was associated with financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, and thieves. He also served as the guide of souls to the underworld and was the messenger of the gods.

According to a press announcement by the National Trust: “This complete figurine probably would have depicted Mercury standing, either draped with a chlamys (a short cloak), or naked, holding a caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes).”

The team also unearthed thousands of artefacts, providing evidence of the evolution of Smallhythe Place from a Georgian farm to a midden dump, a shipbuilding site, and a brickworks.

The National Trust said: “To support our investigations, we received grants from the National Trust’s Inclusive Archaeology, Robert Kiln and the Roman Research Funds and from the Royal Archaeological Institute. During 2023, our project has received funding from the Society of Antiquaries and the William and Edith Oldham Charitable Trust.”

Header Image Credit : James Dobson

Sources : National Trust – Exploring Smallhythe Place: Archaeological Investigations by the River Rother

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

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Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Żagań-Lutnia5 was first discovered in the 1960s near the town of Żagań in western Poland, with previous studies suggesting that the monument could be associated with the Białowieża group of the Lusatian urnfield culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300–500 BC) in most of what is now Poland. It formed part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary, and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

A recent study led by Dr. Arkadiusz Michalak on behalf of the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder River has revealed two parallel sequences of magnetic anomalies at Żagań-Lutnia5 that represent the remnants of earthen and wooden fortifications.

The course of the fortifications were recorded in the northern, western and southern parts of the study area, however, a study of the eastern section was limited due to a sewage collector built in the 1990’s.

Exploratory excavations found four cultural layers with remains of huts and hearths, in addition to a burnt layer from the last phase of occupation that suggests a period of conflict.

According to the researchers, the monument was likely built by the same people who constructed the stronghold in Wicin and a number of verified defensive settlements within the area of the Elbe, Nysa Łużycka and Odra.

As a result of the study, Żagań-Lutnia5 has been added to the catalogue of verified Early Iron Age strongholds located in today’s Lubusz Voivodeship.

Header Image Credit : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments

Sources : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments – Archaeological research at the site of Żagań-Lutnia5

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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