TBT: Roman Dodecahedron

I’m reading Mary C Beaudry’s Findings – The Material Culture of Needlework and Sewing, which is a resource for archeologists to identify and contextualize findings of sewing and needlework. It’s a fascinating book, it’s everything I wished Big Cotton was (don’t waste your money on Big Cotton – it’s sensationalized & full of innaccuracy; I’ll send you my unfinished copy if you really want it). Beaudry does discuss knitting needles (unfortunately not many survive because the materials they were made from, like wood, tend to decay) so I went looking for images of ancient knitting needles using keywords for the finds they’ve been found in and instead discovered a mystery: the Roman dodecahedron.

One example of a Roman dodecahedron – others have different dimensions and smaller holes. A Google image search reveals a lot of differences among these objects.

Over 100 of these objects have been found, most made of bronze and in varying sizes, all over Europe. They are not mentioned in contemporary literature, so no one is really sure of their use – are they candle holders? Some kind of measuring device? Gaming dice? All of the above? In 2014, Martin Hallett (an amateur I can’t find much information about) 3D printed a Roman dodecahedron and … well, I’ll let him tell you the rest, which is knitting related, I promise!

That same year, another youtuber and knitter, ChertineP, ordered a 3D printed dodecahedron to try knitting glove fingers herself; her results:

Caveat for all of this: there is no archeological confirmation that some Roman dodecahedrons were used as spool knitters, at least not yet. It’s interesting to think that they could have been used this way, but without expert archeological analysis, which my cursory googling did not find, this is just speculation.