A penis-shaped gold pendant from ancient Rome has become so popular at Norfolk's Lynn Museum that visitors will soon be able to purchase replicas of it at the gift shop.

The tiny 2-inch gold Hillington Phallus was discovered in 2011 by Kevin Hillier on a farmer’s field with his metal detector. After experts at the British Museum valued it at £800 ($1,200), it was sold to the Lynn Museum (with the proceeds being split between Hillier and the landowner). The golden pendant went on display in January, 2012 — and it quickly became a big hit.


The History Blog explains its significance:

The figure is formed out of a sheet of gold soldered together along the length with an aperture at the ends and two globes of gold soldered to each side of the base. Between the testicular globes is a transverse loop that was soldered separately. The loop suggests the phallus was worn as a pendant, possibly by a Roman soldier since the use of phalluses as amulets to ward off evil spells was not a local religious practice. It’s a rare object as most of the other ancient phalluses discovered in Britain are made out of base metals. The gold is bright and the piece is in excellent condition.

According to Tim Thorpe of the Lynn Museum, "Phallic amulets were commonly worn in Roman times both as a symbol of sexuality, and to promote fertility. Ancient Romans believed that sexual symbols like this gold phallus would shield them from harm and protect them from evil curses."


Last year, when the museum decided to create souvenirs inspired by local objects, the gold phallus was included. Artist Sue Heaser was commissioned to create the replica pendants. It was too tiny and delicate to be used to make a mould, so Heaser had to painstakingly measure, draw and photograph the piece.

The replicas will be solid, unlike the original, and (obviously) not made from real gold. Silver and bronze souvenirs will be available in the gift shop within the next several months.


[Source: History Blog]