France, 32nd Century BCE
15cm ~ Limestone
One of the best-preserved of the many Paleolithic dodecahedrons in our collection, this stone shows an unusual regularity in the planar surfaces indicative of painstaking craftsmanship.
Its purpose, like that of all the other dodecahedrons, remains a mystery. One school holds that it was a weapon, and that the engraved lines represent the number of enemies killed with this particular stone. Critics say it would hardly be worth the time to grind, polish and engrave such a weapon when any half-decent hand axe would do the job more effectively.
A group of specialists at Purdue University holds that it is some kind of navigational instrument; others pooh-pooh Purdue and point out the complete absence of any means of orienting the stone. There is also the theory that it represents some form of primitive game piece, perhaps one of a large, clumsy pair of dice, with the engraved face marking the big payoff. This is countered by another group which says that it is a stone seal, used for impressing a symbol in wet clay.
Finally, there is speculation that the rock represents early money, or even more speculatively a primitive form of banking. It has been pointed out that a credit card slips neatly into the deep groove, suggesting an early form of merchant identification or approval.