Nowadays there’s penis-shaped graffiti on bus stations and etched into benches, and back in the day – 1,800 years ago – there were penis-shaped wall carvings. Some things never change.
Archaeologists from Newcastle University and Historic England discovered the ancient carving, dated at 207AD, in a quarry near Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria.
According to Historic England, the etching is one of many inscriptions carved by Roman soldiers quarrying stone for Hadrian’s Wall. The site is known locally as ‘The Written Rock of Gelt’.
This Phallus is a Roman symbol meaning 'good luck'
— Historic England (@HistoricEngland) February 27, 2019
Four new carvings were discovered recently, including the phallus which is apparently a Roman ‘good luck’ symbol.
It seems like the Romans had a bit of penis-related God complex, but I suppose at least it gives deeper meaning to the drawing.
Historic England explain the inscriptions tell a recognisable human and personal story, with one carving depicting a caricature of one of the officers in charge.
There could be two ways to read this story. From my non-historian view it seems like the soldiers could have been calling their officer a dick, but they could also have been wishing him good luck. We’ll probably never know for sure.
Access to The Written Rock of Gelt became difficult when the path to the site collapsed in the early 1980s, so the archaeologists are abseiling down from the quarry in order to inspect them more closely.
For more on the Roman inscriptions being recorded at the Written Wall of Gelt near Hadrian's Wall, see our website at https://t.co/o4KtnkqM6I. Also check out the @itn story featuring Jon Allison of Newcastle University and our very own Tony Wilmott! https://t.co/OzhM5q98gm pic.twitter.com/xyQRgIL398
— HE Archaeology (@HE_Archaeology) March 1, 2019
They’ll use laser scanning to get detailed recordings of the carvings, from which a three-dimensional digital model of the rock surface can be created.
The 3D model will ensure the inscriptions can be studied in the future, in case the originals erode away.
Fascinating work going on up at the Written Rock of Gelt. Jon Allison, who works with us on occasion, is one of a number of archaeologists from @ArchaeologyNCL and @HistoricEngland who are recording #graffiti left by #Roman soldiers whilst quarrying stone for @HadriansWall pic.twitter.com/M5s7D1YEEz
— Archaeological Research Services Ltd. (@CarryOnDigging) March 1, 2019
Mike Collins, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Hadrian’s Wall at Historic England, spoke of the significance of the findings, saying:
These inscriptions at Gelt Forest are probably the most important on the Hadrian’s Wall frontier.
They provide insight into the organisation of the vast construction project that Hadrian’s Wall was, as well as some very human and personal touches, such as the caricature of their commanding officer inscribed by one group of soldiers.
The discoveries are certainly intriguing, and they prove how doodling penises has kept people entertained for generations.
May the pastime continue for years to come!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.