1,700-Year-Old Graffiti Found at Vindolanda

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient carved stone with the image of a phallus and graffiti at the site of Vindolanda, an ancient Roman military fort and settlement on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, England.

The ancient carved stone with the image of a phallus and graffiti found at the site of Vindolanda in Northumberland, England. Image credit: Vindolanda Trust.

The ancient carved stone with the image of a phallus and graffiti found at the site of Vindolanda in Northumberland, England. Image credit: Vindolanda Trust.

The ancient carved stone measures approximately 40 cm (15.7 inches) wide by 15 cm (5.9 inches) tall.

It was found by Dylan Herbert, a Vindolanda volunteer and a retired biochemist from South Wales, on May 19, 2022.

“I’d been removing a lot of rubble all week and to be honest this stone had been getting in my way, I was glad when I was told I could take it out of the trench,” Herbert said.

“It looked from the back like all the others, a very ordinary stone, but when I turned it over, I was startled to see some clear letters.”

“Only after we removed the mud did I realize the full extent of what I’d uncovered, and I was absolutely delighted.”

As well as the obvious explicit carved phallus, the face of the stone is engraved with the words SECVNDINVS CACOR, an engraving which makes this graffiti a very personal insult.

A team of experts in Roman epigraphy recognized it as a mangled version of Secundinus cacator (Secundinus, the shitter) with the image adding to the force of the written insult.

“The recovery of an inscription, a direct message from the past, is always a great event on a Roman excavation, but this one really raised our eyebrows when we deciphered the message on the stone,” said Dr. Andrew Birley, director of excavations and CEO of the Vindolanda Trust.

“Its author clearly had a big problem with Secundinus and was confident enough to announce their thoughts publicly on a stone.”

“I have no doubt that Secundinus would have been less than amused to see this when he was wandering around the site over 1,700 years ago.”

According to the researchers, the Roman phallus is often seen as a good luck charm or symbol of fertility, a positive symbol.

However, in this case the author has cleverly taken its meaning and subverted it to their own aims.

Each letter has been carefully carved, which would have taken a while, leaving little doubt to the depth of feeling held.

“This fabulous bit of social commentary from the ancient past will amuse visitors for many years to come,” the scientists said.

“It reminds us that while the Roman army could be extremely brutal, especially to the native population, they were not immune to hurling insults at each other.”

“Centuries before printed papers or social media were available this would have been one of the best ways to get a lot of people noticing a point of view.”

Source: sci-news.com

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