This 2,000+ year old 20-sided crystal dice comes from antiquity.

Archaeology is a fascinating subject that allows us to discover and learn about the history of our ancestors. Every once in a while, an archaeological discovery is made that is truly remarkable, and one such discovery is the 20-sided crystal dice that dates back to the Roman empire period.

This dice, now housed in the Musée du Louvre, is made of rock crystal and is only 1cm high. It is an icosahedron, which means it has 20 faces, and each face is inscribed with a Latin letter and a corresponding Roman numeral.

But what was this ancient 20-sided crystal dice used for? While it’s clear that it was intended to be thrown to give a random result, its exact purpose remains a mystery. However, there are some theories.

One theory is that the dice were used for divination purposes. In the 2nd/3rd century, the Homeromanteion, a Greek oracle book, referred to throwing lots to obtain a number, which could then be used to look up oracle questions and answers. It’s possible that this dice was used in conjunction with such a book or a similar divination handbook.

The inscriptions on the Louvre rock-crystal icosahedron.

There are also other examples of polyhedral dice that have been recovered from all over the Roman empire, the majority of which are inscribed with Greek or Latin numbers or letters. One unique example was an Egyptian icosahedron, which had the name of a different Egyptian god on each side.

It’s clear that the ancient Romans enjoyed games and gambling, and this 20-sided crystal dice was likely used for some form of entertainment. But what is most fascinating about this dice is the intricate inscriptions on each of its faces, which provide a window into the ancient world and the use of language during that time.

While we may never know for sure what this ancient 20-sided crystal dice was used for, it’s clear that it has captured the imagination of many people and remains an important artifact that sheds light on the history of the Roman empire.

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