19th February 2021:

A Roman millstone engraved with a giant phallus was unearthed during one of Britain's biggest road projects.

More than 300 querns and millstones were recovered during archaeological work by MOLA Headland Infrastructure on Highways England’s £1.5 billion A14 upgrade between Cambridge and Huntingdon in 2017 and 2018. One of the millstones recovered was found to have two crosses inscribed on its circumference, and a more unusual type of carving on its upper face. The millstone had been broken during its use and was then adapted, which hid and preserved the genital carving as it was then reversed to be used as a saddle quern.

The stone was analysed by Dr Ruth Shaffrey, a worked stone specialist based at Oxford Archaeology South. She said: "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."

Dr Ruth Shaffrey and the engraved Roman millstone

A paper detailing the four Romano-British instances of phallic carvings found on millstones by Dr Shaffrey is due to appear in the peer-reviewed journal Britannia shortly.

Steve Sherlock, Highways England’s Archaeology Lead for the A14, said: “This millstone is important as it adds to the evidence for such images in Roman Britain. The phallus was seen as an important image of strength and virility in the Roman world, with it being common practice for legionaries to wear a phallus amulet, which would give them good luck before battle.”

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.