Archaeologists have re-evaluated a 2,000-year-old wooden object originally thought to be a darning tool, which they believe may have been used as a sex toy in Roman times.
Dr Rob Collins told Sky News the 6.5-inch wooden object was smooth at both ends – one of the only clues experts had of what it might have been used for.
Dr Collins is a Senior Lecturer in Archeology at Newcastle University and analyzed the object together with Dr Rob Sands from University College Dublin.
“The question we found ourselves asking was, what kind of object, shaped like a penis, would wear more at the ends than in the middle?” Dr. Collins said.
A possible answer? dildo.
Dr Collins said phallic imagery was “ubiquitous in the Roman world”, and it was widely believed to ward off bad luck.
Art and literature of the time also reveal dildo use by the Romans.
But no life-size examples have been found before.
The phallus was found in 1992 in a ditch at Vindolanda, a Roman fortress south of Hadrian’s Wall, along with thousands of other wooden objects, shoes, clothing accessories and leather scraps.
It was originally classified as a darning tool. Dr Collins said this was likely due to the sheer number of items found at Vindlanda, and the pressure to preserve them before they began to decompose.
But when he re-examined the object, it was “immediately clear” that it was a penis.
“It looked like an ad***,” he said.
“The question is why, why?”
It’s impossible to say for sure that the penis is a sex toy – although Dr Collins said he “would like to think so”.
“It will be the first of its kind, and it’s always exciting,” he said.
“And, if it’s a sex tool, it’s nice to think that, you know, maybe there are people having fun on the border, and it’s not all dangerous savages or boring people on patrol.”
Archaeologists have proposed two other possibilities for what the object might have been in a paper published in the journal Antiquity.
If it wasn’t for a dildo, a penis might have been inserted into the statue, and passers-by would touch it for good luck.
Or it can be used as a pestle to grind food, medicine or cosmetics, as the protective properties of the penis are transferred to the ingredients in the process.
The penis is now on display at the Vindolanda Museum.