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.”
Header Image Credit : Antiquity Journal
This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily
Archaeologists uncover tomb of Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou
In a press announcement by the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), archaeologists have discovered the tomb of Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou near Xianyang City, China.
Emperor Xiaomin (birth name: Yuwen Jue), was the founder of the Xianbei-led Northern Zhou dynasty of China that lasted from AD 557 to 581. One of the Northern dynasties of China’s Northern and Southern dynasties period, it succeeded the Western Wei dynasty and was eventually overthrown by the Sui dynasty.
Rather than take the title of emperor, Xiaomin instead used the Zhou Dynasty title of “Heavenly Prince”, however, a power struggle occurred between Xiaomin and the his cousin, Yuwen Hu, who deposed Xiaomin and had him killed.
Archaeologists conducting excavations adjacent to the Airport Expressway in Xianyang City have uncovered the tomb of Emperor Xiaomin, designated Tomb M655.
Image Credit : CASS
Excavations have revealed a 147 long ditch, leading to a tomb oriented on a north to south axis. The tomb contains a single chamber at a depth of 10 metres, containing disturbed funerary offerings such as ceramic vessels and figurines depicting warriors, cavalry units, a camel, and indiscernible creatures.
The team also discovered an epitaph stone with an inscription loosely translated as: “Renshen in October of the second year of the tomb of Gongyu Wenjue, Duke of Lueyang, Zhou Dynasty” – referring to the birth name of Yuwen Jue.
According to the press announcement: “The archaeological discovery of Yuwen Jue’s tomb from the Northern Zhou Dynasty is of great significance. It is the second Northern Zhou emperor’s tomb that has been excavated after the Xiaoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou Dynasty.”
Header Image Credit : CASS
Viking trade connections stretched to Arctic Scandinavia
An analysis by researchers from the University of York has revealed Viking trade routes between northern Scandinavia and the edges of continental Europe.
The study focuses on trade connections from the town of Hedeby, an important trading settlement during the Viking Age near the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula in Germany.
Hedeby is first mentioned in the Frankish chronicles of Einhard (who was in the service of Charlemagne), but was probably founded around AD 770.
Hedeby’s prominence as a primary trading hub can be attributed to its strategic geographical positioning along the pivotal trade routes connecting the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia in the north-south direction, as well as the Baltic and the North Sea in the east-west direction.
The town was also a major centre of antler-working, with 288,000 antler finds recorded to date, most of which are waste material from the production of hair combs.
A ZooMS analysis of the collagen in the combs has revealed that 85-90% of the combs were made from reindeer antler during the 9th century AD. The combs or antlers were imported from northern Scandinavia, indicating new evidence for contact between Hedeby and the northern outlands in central and northern Scandinavia.
Dr Steven Ashby, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “The work at Hedeby is particularly interesting, as it tells us about connections between the mountains of upland or arctic Scandinavia and this large town at the gateway to continental Europe, and points to a window in the 9th Century when these northern links must have been particularly strong.”
The paper ‘In the footsteps of Ohthere: biomolecular analysis of early Viking Age hair combs from Hedeby (Haithabu)’ is published in Antiquity Journal.
Header Image Credit : Mariana Muñoz-Rodriguez
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