Archaeologists have dug up 421 ancient Roman shoes at the site of the Vindolanda fort, on Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland.
During a dig, lasting the whole summer, each shoe was uncovered and recovered one by one.
Experts say each shoe offers a window into the life and type of person who might have once worn it.
These range from baby boots, small children’s shoes, female footwear and men’s boots and bath clogs.
What has been uncovered conceivably represents more than one shoe for every person who lived inside the fort at Vindolanda at that time.
“The Vindolanda Trust is committed to the excavation, preservation and public display of its finds although each shoe costs between £80 and £100 to conserve. Finding so many shoes this year has resulted in significant additional costs for the laboratory’. In light of the cost associated with the shoe hoard the Trust has launched a fundraising campaign asking for support from the public to ‘conserve a shoe’.
“This offers an unbelievable and unparalleled demographic census of a community in conflict from two millennia away from today. The volume of footwear is fantastic as is its sheer diversity even for a site like Vindolanda which has produced more Roman shoes than any other place from the Roman Empire’. The Trust does not receive any external funding towards the excavation programme and we exist as a result of visitors to the site and through the support of our volunteers and Friends of Vindolanda. This year has been exceptional and we hope 421 generous people will come forward and donate £80 to help us specifically with the cost of conserving these shoes’.
1,800 years ago the Roman army built one of its smallest but most heavily defended forts at the site of Vindolanda.
The small garrison of a few hundred soldiers and their families took shelter behind a series of large ditches and ramparts, while outside the walls a war was raging between the northern British Tribes and Roman forces.
Once the war was over (c AD 212) the troops and their dependants pulled out of the fort, and anything that they could not carry with them on the march was tossed into the defensive ditches.
The rubbish in the ditches was then quickly sealed when a new Roman town and fort was built at the site, preserving the rubbish in an oxygen free environment where the normal ravages of time, rust and decay, crawled to a halt.