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Ancient Roman sandal unearthed in Bavaria reveals secrets of 2,000-year-old military life

By the end of the first century A.D., however, the Roman army began transitioning to enclosed boots known as calcei, marking the end of the caligae era...

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Ancient Roman sandal unearthed in Bavaria reveals secrets of 2,000-year-old military life

Archaeologists in Bavaria, Germany, have unearthed the remains of a 2,000-year-old Roman sandal near an ancient military fort in Oberstimm.

This remarkable find includes a caliga, a type of heavy-duty sandal worn by Roman legionary soldiers, identified by the hobnails on its sole. These sandals provided essential traction for soldiers on the march and were a standard part of the Roman military uniform.

The excavation took place at a civilian settlement located on the outskirts of the Roman fort, which dates back to between A.D. 60 and 130. Researchers used X-rays to analyze the sandal remains, which consisted only of the sole and some well-preserved nails. The discovery of this caliga illustrates the influence of Roman military practices and lifestyles on local populations in Bavaria.

In addition to the sandal, archaeologists uncovered various artifacts, including food scraps, pottery, a sickle, and components of clothing, further enriching the historical context of the site.

The caliga was a significant part of a Roman soldier’s gear, offering protection against blisters and conditions such as trench foot, according to the Trimontium Museum in Scotland. The third Roman emperor, Caligula, famously received his nickname, meaning “little boot,” from wearing similar sandals as a child while accompanying his father’s soldiers.

By the end of the first century A.D., however, the Roman army began transitioning to enclosed boots known as calcei, marking the end of the caligae era.

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Amira Adaileh, a consultant at the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation (BLfD), emphasized the importance of this find: “So-called caligae were mainly worn by Roman soldiers during the Roman Empire. The find makes it clear that the practices, lifestyles, and clothing that the Romans brought with them to Bavaria were adopted by the local people.”

The excavation site yielded more than just the sandal. Archaeologists also discovered food remnants, pottery shards, a sickle, and various costume components, which together provide a richer understanding of daily life in this ancient settlement.

These findings highlight the blend of Roman and local cultures and the extent of Roman influence in the region.

Mathias Pfeil, curator general at the BLfD, noted the significance of such discoveries: “Surprise finds such as the shoe sole from Oberstimm make it clear again and again that valuable information is collected even after archaeological excavations have been completed.”

The discovery of this Roman sandal and the accompanying artifacts not only sheds light on the daily lives of Roman soldiers but also underscores the broader impact of Roman culture and technology on the local populations in ancient Bavaria.

This find continues to contribute valuable insights into the reach and influence of the Roman Empire.

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