Advertisement

humansHumanshumansancient ancestors
clockPUBLISHED

Roman Wooden Phallus May Have Been An Ancient Dildo

Or it could have been a sewing tool (sorry, no one believes that).

author

Ben Taub

author

Ben Taub

Freelance Writer

Benjamin holds a Master's degree in anthropology from University College London and has worked in the fields of neuroscience research and mental health treatment.

Freelance Writer

share1.4kShares
Roman dildo

Definitely not a pestle. Image credit: Antiquity Journal

A wooden artifact shaped like a penis may have been used as a dildo by the Roman occupiers of Great Britain, according to a new analysis of the naughty object. Originally discovered in 1992, the model schlong was first thought to have been a sewing tool, yet upon re-inspection it seems the item might have been used for something less wholesome than embroidery.

The male member was a popular subject among Roman sculptors, and archaeologists have come to expect stone and metal phalli when excavating sites from across the empire. Yet wooden items of this sort are extremely rare, as organic materials are prone to decay long before they are discovered.

Advertisement

However, anaerobic conditions at the Roman fort of Vindolanda in northern Britain have helped to preserve a number of items that would otherwise have withered, including wooden writing tablets and even a pair of leather boxing gloves. The phallus-shaped object was found in a refuse ditch that was used in the second century CE, suggesting that the woody appendage was thrown out in the trash.

Measuring 160 millimeters (6.3 inches) in length, the object features a “cylindrical base bearing a convex end, narrower shaft and a terminal shaped to depict the glans,” the researchers write. Made of young ash roundwood, the ancient phallus was probably larger when first crafted but is likely to have shrunk over the years.

Roman wooden phallus dildo
The wooden phallus in all its glory. Image credit: Vindolanda Trust


Regarding the function of the discarded penis, the study authors say it might have acted as a good luck charm and was possibly intended to be slotted into a statue that guarded the doorway of an important building. However, the fact that the item had been tossed away makes such a purpose unlikely, while the pattern of use-wear does not appear consistent with continual placement into a socket.

Alternatively, the researchers say the object might have been a pestle that was used to grind ingredients for food, cosmetics or medicines. Offering a spicier interpretation, though, they go on to discuss the possibility that the phallus may have been a dildo.

Advertisement

“The history of sex toys has received limited academic attention,” write the study authors. “We can assume, however, that such objects existed in other past societies, and this is strongly supported in texts and artistic representations from the Graeco-Roman world.”

Despite this, hard evidence for the use of dildos is generally lacking, and such items “rarely feature in archaeological finds.”

Exploring the possibilities, the researchers explain that “if the Vindolanda phallus functioned as a dildo, it need not necessarily have been used for penetration. Instead, actions such as clitoral stimulation might better fit the form and wear observed.”

They also say that lubricants may well have been applied by the user of the ancient sex toy, although “neither these nor human secretions are likely to survive archaeologically.”

Advertisement

In a statement emailed to IFLScience, study author Dr Rob Collins explained that “the size of the phallus and the fact that it was carved from wood raises a number of questions to its use in antiquity.”

“We know that the ancient Romans and Greeks used sexual implements – this object from Vindolanda could be an example of one,” he said.

Ultimately, the researchers are unable to definitively identify the purpose of their discovery. However, while they accept that prudish audiences may find the concept of ancient sex toys uncomfortable, they insist that “we should be prepared to accept the presence of dildos and the manifestation of sexual practices in the material culture of the past.”

The research is published in the journal Antiquity.


ARTICLE POSTED IN

humansHumanshumansancient ancestors
  • tag
  • Roman,

  • archaeology,

  • sexual activity,

  • Ancient Rome,

  • sex toys,

  • ancient civilizations,

  • ancient ancestors

FOLLOW ONNEWSGoogele News