Step back in time: Roman footprints discovered in Israel reveal details of 1st century soldiers’ hobnail boots
Roman footprints were found at Hippos-Sussita near the Sea of Galilee
It’s thought a soldier made them because they were found in a bastion
Intact print reveals hobnail construction of caligae shoes worn by the army
Evidence hints the town was more heavily fortified than previously thought and the bastion may have been built in a hurry by the Roman army
The Roman army was a precise military machine with legions of disciplined soldiers who marched in formation.
But despite trampling across the vast Roman Empire around 2,000 years ago, few of their footprints have stood the test of time.
Now archaeologists have discovered a perfectly preserved footprint in Israel that reveals the details of a Roman soldier’s shoes, including their hobnail construction.
archaeologists have discovered a perfectly preserved footprint (pictured right and inset) in Israel that reveals the details of a Roman soldier’s shoes, including their hobnail construction
Prints were discovered at the Hippos-Sussita archaeological site east of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
It’s rare for the prints to be found in mortar, Excavation Director Michael Eisenberg told MailOnline, but footprints have been found on dozens of bricks and roof tiles.
They are thought to belong to a Roman because they lie within the remains of a Roman bastion, which is a structure protruding from a defensive artillery wall.
Dr Eisenberg told Popular Archaeology Magazine: ‘On the ancient binding material of the bastion rear wall, we noticed to our great surprise a number of imprints that were left by Roman military boots while their owners were walking over the mortar before it had dried.’
He estimates the prints were made in the first century AD.
The prints shoe marks made by iron nails in the soles of caligae shoes (a modern replica is shown) which were the standard footwear of the Roman army from the first century BC until the 2nd century AD
‘To be more precise, there were several imprints made by the iron nails (hobnails) of caligae soles – the standard footwear of the Roman army from the first century BC until the beginning of the 2nd century AD.’
All soldiers were equipped with tough caligae shoes, from ordinary members of legions to centurions.
They resemble modern sandals with straps of leather, but were actually marching boots with heavy duty leather soles and iron hobnails built between sole layers using a special technique.
What the Romans considered sandals were only worn inside Roman houses.
Dr Eisenberg and his team found one complete sole imprint measuring 9.6 inches (24.5cm) long as well as other imperfect footprints, leading them to estimate that the soldier would be a European size 40 (UK size seven and US size seven-and-a-half) in today’s size.
He said: ‘Leather straps connected to the sole bound around the leg up to just bellow the knee.
‘The hobnails in the caligae soles were to protect the boot and to be used as weapon.
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