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October 15, 2023

2000-Year-Old “Darning Tool” Found at Vindolanda Roman Fort in Northumberland

In 1992, archaeologists discovered an oblong-shaped object at the ancient Roman fort of Vindolanda, in northern England. Found next to shoes and clothing accessories, the wooden item—which had a wide base and a narrow tip—was at the time believed to be a ‘darning tool’. The phallic shaped object, which measures about 16 centimeters (6.2 inches).

Researchers have come up with three possible theories for what it was used for. Phallic symbols were common in ancient Rome, used as good luck protection and appearing as decoration on everything from jewelry to frescoes to pottery. 

One theory is that it was used as a pestle that would imbue magical properties into the ingredients it ground up, the scholars said. Another is that it would have been embedded into a public statue for passers-by to touch for good luck, as was common at the time, they added.

But there’s a problem with the “statue” theory: the object is worn down at both ends, and not just the tip, suggesting repeated handling.

The phallus is now on display in the Vindolanda museum.


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