Archaeologists excavating the remains of a Roman auxiliary fort in Britain recently made a surprising and rather hilarious discovery: a small stone carved with the unmistakable image of a linga—originally a photograph of an ancient Roman d**k, a crude Carver was clearly disliked at anyone being directed with a derogatory message.
The Vindolanda site is located to the south of the defense fortress known as Hadrian’s Wall. An antiquarian named William Camden recorded the existence of the ruins in a treatise from 1586. Over the next 200 years, many people visited the site, discovering a military bathhouse in 1702 and an altar in 1715. The Rev. Anthony Hadley began excavating the site in 1814, but died before he had a chance to record what he found. Another altar found in 1914 confirmed that the fort was called Vindolanda.
Serious archaeological excavations at the site began in the 1930s under the leadership of Eric Birley, whose sons and grandsons continued the work after his death, to this day. The deposits’ oxygen-deprived conditions (some of which extend six meters, or 19 feet, into the Earth) mean that the recovered artifacts are remarkably well preserved. These include wooden writing tablets and more than 100 boxwood combs, which may have decomposed long ago under more oxygen-rich conditions.
The site is most famous for the so-called Vindoland Tablet, one of the oldest surviving handwritten documents in the UK. Discovered in 1973, these are thin wooden leaves, about the size of a postcard, with text written in carbon-based ink. Most of the documents are official military communications and personal messages from non-soldiers to their families, revealing many details about life in the fort.
For example, a tablet is a letter from a Roman cavalry officer named Masculus asking a prefect to send more beer to the garrison. (An army marches on its belly.) By far the most famous is tablet 291, written around 100 CE by the wife of a commander of a fortress named Claudia Severa. It was addressed to invite Sulpicia Lepidina to a birthday party and represents one of the earliest known examples of a woman writing in Latin.
Among many other interesting discoveries: a bronze and silver fibula (a brooch or pin for fastening clothes) in 2006; In 2010 the remains of an 8- to 10-year-old girl were found in a shallow pit in a barracks room; A wooden toilet seat was revealed in 2014; And two (unmatched) Roman boxing gloves were discovered in 2017, similar to modern full-handed boxing gloves—except these date back to 120 CE.
Also in 2017, archaeologists found equestrian barracks littered with swords, ink bullets, robes and arrows, among other artifacts. Archaeologists also found a 5th-century cup in 2020 and last year unearthed a carved sandstone figure showing the figure of a naked warrior riding a horse – possibly the Roman god Mars.
For this latest discovery, one of the volunteers working on the excavation was a retired biochemist from South Wales named Dylan Herbert, who initially saw the stone as another piece of rubble. But when he turned it over, he noticed the clear letters and realized it was far from normal. “It was only after removing the soil that I discovered the full extent of what I discovered, and I was absolutely delighted,” said Herbert.
The stone is quite small, measuring 40 cm wide by 15 cm long (15 inches by 6 inches). Experts in Roman epigraphy recognized the lettering as a confused version of Secundinus ShagatorWhich (ahem) translates to “Secundinus, the shitter.” The image of the penis only added insult to injury—a clever subversion of the traditional interpretation of a phallus as a positive symbol of fertility. The Vindolanda site now contains 13 phallic carvings, more than have been discovered at any other excavation site along Hadrian’s Wall.
“The recovery of an inscription, a direct message from the past, is always a great event on Roman excavations, but it really raised our eyebrows when we understood the message on the stone,” said Andrew Birley, director and CEO of the excavation. of the Windowland Trust “its author apparently had a major problem with Secundinus and was confident enough to publicly declare his views on a stone. I have no doubt that when he roamed the site 1,700 years ago Had it been, Secundinus would not have been surprised to see this.”