Binchester Phalli




Chrystal Antink

The phallus was a popular protective symbol in Roman culture, and a vast array of pendants, fittings, sculptures and paintings depicting them can be found from across the Empire. Pendants in particular have been associated with Roman military sites in Britain, although they are also found associated with children’s burials  and at rural sites.

Last year at Binchester we found two examples of phalli, both of which are probably from pendants. The first was cast from copper alloy, measures 21.6mm, and weighs 2.4g. In its degraded, not conserved state, little detail is visible; however, there are possibly angled ridges along the shaft, and the object seems to have had an integral loop for suspension at the proximal end.

The second is made of lead, and is a more free-form example, measuring 27.2mm and weighing 8.4g. Again, although the overall form is distinct, there are few discernible details: the glans is slightly more prominent than the shaft, opposite two irregular globular knops. It was probably pierced for suspension, although this cannot be confirmed until conservation cleaning is carried out.

Having two finds like this from the same site invites comparison, so we are putting to it to a poll. Head over to our Facebook or Twitter to vote for your favourite!

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