Archaeologist digs up 1,800-year-old slab near Hadrian’s Wall carved with penis graffiti
In most classrooms across the UK, it’s likely you’ll find rude graffiti scrawled on the desks.
Now, a new discovery at Hadrian’s Wall suggests these types of cheeky scribblings date back thousands of years.
Rude graffiti carved into stone branding a Roman soldier a “s***ter” has been unearthed at Vindolanda, near Hadian’s Wall
Researchers have discovered a large phallus and an inscription which brands a Roman soldier called Secundinus a ‘s***ter’ at the historic site, dating back 1,700 years.
‘Its author clearly had a big problem with Secundinus and was confident enough to announce their thoughts publicly on a stone,’ said Dr Andrew Birley, Director of Excavations and CEO of the Vindolanda Trust.
‘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.’
The graffiti was uncovered at Vindolanda, a picturesque fort and settlement in the Northumberland countryside, which is part of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
‘It comes from a secure context below a 4th century cavalry barracks, discarded into a long trench filled with rubble,’ a spokesperson said.
This isn’t the first time quirky scribbling have been found at Vindolanda – previously, archaeologists found a handwritten birthday invitation where one woman invited her ‘dearest sister’ to join her.
The latest discovery was made by Dylan Herbert, a retired biochemist from South Wales, who was volunteering with the Vindolanda Trust.
‘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,’ Mr 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 realise the full extent of what I’d uncovered, and I was absolutely delighted
The stone features a carving of a phallus measuring 15.7 x 6 inches, along with the words SECVNDINVS CACOR.
Dr Alexander Meyer, Dr Alex Mullen and Dr Roger Tomlin, specialists in Roman epigraphy, recognised these words as a mangled version of ‘Secundinus cacator’.
This translates to ‘Secundinus, the s***ter’, according to the experts.
‘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,’ Dr Birley said.
Engraving of phalluses are not uncommon on Hadrian’s Wall, with a total of 13 now found at the historic site.
Retired Biochemist Dylan Herbert discovered the stone with the penis carved into it
While the symbol is usually seen as an image of strength and virility, that’s likely not the case with this new finding.
In this case, the author has ‘cleverly taken its meaning and subverted it to their own aims,’ according to the researchers.
This fabulous bit of social commentary from the ancient past will amuse visitors for many years to come,’ they said in a release.
‘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.’