Roman good luck symbol pops up after A14 dig in Cambridgeshire

19/2/21 roman phallus A14
The Roman phallus unearthed by MOLA Headland Infrastructure Credit: Highways England

Archaeologists working on a dig around the site of the A14 in Cambridgeshire have uncovered a millstone engraved with a phallus.

The stone dates from Roman times and is 2000 years old.

More than 300 grinding stones were recovered during the archaeological work on Highways England’s A14 upgrade between Cambridge and Huntingdon in 2017 and 2018, but this find was only recently pieced together by archaeologists.

Steve Sherlock, Highways England’s Archaeology Lead for the A14, said the phallus was an important image of strength and virility in the Roman world, and soldiers would often wear the symbol to bring them good luck in battle.

A14 Credit: PA


The millstone had been broken during its use and was then adapted, which preserved the carvings as it was then reversed to be used as a saddle quern, one of the bedstones used in the grinding process, hiding the genital carving.

 Decorated querns and millstones of any date are extremely rare, with only four such Roman millstones discovered from around a total of 20,000 nationwide. While crosses on such stones are more prevalent, these tend to be found only at military sites.


Dr Ruth Shaffrey with the millstone, only one of four such carvings ever found on these millstones Credit: Highways England

 Dr Ruth Shaffrey, from Oxford Archaeology, added: "As one of only four known examples of Romano-British millstones decorated this way, the A14 millstone is a highly significant find. It offers insights into the importance of the mill to the local community and to the protective properties bestowed upon the millstone and its produce (the flour) by the depiction of a phallus on its upper surface."


Highways England’s trailblazing archaeological work on the A14 has already unearthed woolly mammoth tusks and woolly rhino skulls, the earliest evidence of beer brewing in Britain, dating back to as early as 400 BC, and only the second gold coin to be found in the country depicting Roman emperor Laelianus, who reigned for about two months in 269 AD before he was killed.

Another find dug up at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire recently was that of a tiny figure dating from the first century with what appears to be a mullet for a hair style