The Play's the Thing with Roman Items Found at German Dig

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September 20, 2015

It’s not often that archaeological digs turn up a bit of fun, but that is what has happened in what is now Germany but was in the 1st Century A.D. part of the Roman Empire.

Near the now-German town of Gernsheim, down the Rhine River 30-plus miles south of Frankfurt, archaeologists have discovered among the usual items found in such digs a set of dice and pieces from a board game, both proof that the Roman settlement wasn’t all business-and-war.

About 500 Roman soldiers lived in the fort between A.D. 70 and A.D. 120, the researchers said, and a village grew up around the fort. Later residents built on top of the fort. The Roman soldiers, just before they left the area, buried the gamepieces, dice, and other items in the ditches that surrounded the fort.

Among the other more mundane items found in the dig were fire pits, water wells, remnants of stone buildings, ceramic shards, and more personal items like pearls, hairpins, and clasps used for clothing.

Hans-Markus von Kaenel and his colleagues at the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at Frankfurt’s Goethe University have been digging in the Gernsheim for nearly two decades and have published more than 50 papers on their findings.

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