A silver Roman penis pendant, described as a “significant national find”, has been unearthed on a farm in Kent.
Metal detectorist Wendy Thompson discovered the phallic amulet, only the second silver example to be present in the UK from the Roman era and with a novel design.
Ms Thompson, 73, a retired estate agent, said: “It was only a tiny thing really. We were just as normal, covering a field up and down with a metal detector.
“I turned over this spade of earth and there it was, about eight inches down, I suppose.
“I assumed it was about 2,000 years old and it was.”
The silver penis, 1.2in long and weighing just 9.7g, is believed to this point back to between 43AD and 410AD and after an inquest at County Hall in Maidstone on 26 May, it was classified as treasure.
Coroner Roger Hatch described the item, detailing its “foreskin, shaft and pubes”, before reading a brief report from the British Museum.
The report said it was hard to narrow down a precise date for the pendant however the phallic nature of it “points to the Roman era”.
The find was made on Latest 12 months’s Eve, 2020 on a farm in Higham, near Gravesend and Strood.
Of the 451 recorded phallic objects from Roman Britain just one other is silver – a dual-sided pendant from the Caerleon bath-house.
That one features testes though the present one is without those, but does have pubic hair.
Phalluses were commonly used as a ward against evil
(The Portable Antiquities Scheme/SWNS)
The coroner agreed with the British Museum and declared it a chunk of treasure.
Phallic imagery was commonly expressed in Roman art and the penis was seen as an indication of power and virility.
Soldiers would often wear fist-and-phallus amulets for luck in battle and oldsters would kit their children out with penis-shaped pendants to guard them from the evil eye.
A whole lot of those objects have been found across Britain but they are often fabricated from copper.
A report into the article stated: “It is probably going that this pendant is depicting a flaccid macrophallus, fairly than an erect one, with the chance that, fairly than representing the power to focus on and defeat the evil eye, a scarcity of control and an almost barbaric sexuality is recommended.
“The archaeological contexts of stratified examples, together with phallic wall carvings, equivalent to at Hadrian’s wall, suggest a detailed association with military sites.
“That is supported by written evidence with Pliny attributing the phallus to the embodiment of Fascinus, the guardian of infants and generals.
“The association of the phallus with children can be mentioned by Varro who noted ‘a certain indecent object that’s held on the neck of boys to stop harm coming to them’.
“The archaeological evidence also supports this association between children and phallic pendants, with five ‘fist-and-phallus’ pendants being recovered from a single infant inhumation at Catterick and a horned phallus amulet present in an infant burial in Colchester.
“This object is the primary silver example of its class presupposed to be discovered and thus a major national find.”
Ms Thompson said that the law required metal detectorists to report their findings inside 14 days.
She added: “That’s what every metal detectorist hates because you understand you’ll lose sight of that object for years.”
She continues to be waiting for the pendant to be valued and once it’s sold the cash shall be split between her and the landowner, as is common practice.
Nonetheless, the cash isn’t what drives her enthusiasm for digging up ancient objects.
She said: “I’m not after the cash however it is good to see it sold for its value. I don’t find things because they’re useful, it’s due to history and you understand that anyone once had that object. It’s magical really.”