Roman sandal hobnails found in Bavaria

Yesterday it was Caligula, today it’s caligae! Archaeologists in Oberstimm, Upper Bavaria, have unearthed hobnails from the sole of a Roman sandal. The rare find was in disguise thanks to a thick coating of corrosion that made it look like two indeterminate lumps of bent metal. An X-ray at the laboratory of the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation (BLfD) revealed that the corroded lumps were actually hobnails.

The excavation explored the remains of the civilian settlement that grew around a Roman fort. The Oberstimm fort was built around 45-50 A.D. at the intersection of two major Roman roads running north-south from the Alps over the Danube and east-west from the Danube through the Celtic fortified settlement of Manching. It was garrisoned by both legionaries and auxiliary troops. A second phase of construction in the 80s A.D. enlarged the defensive perimeter and built permanent structure with stone foundations. The second stage fort would be garrisoned by a cavalry unit until troops were withdrawn in the 120s A.D. after the establishment of the northern Limes. The civilian settlement continued to exist after the fort was abandoned.

“So-called caligae were mainly worn by Roman soldiers during the Roman imperial period. The find shows that the practices, ways of life and also the clothing that the Romans brought to Bavaria were adopted by the local people,” says Amira Adaileh, a consultant at the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation.

Individual shoe nails are very often found at Roman sites – but they are only preserved in combination with the remains of the leather sole under special conditions. For example, the Oberstimmer sole comes from a well. Similar finds are therefore only known from a handful of sites in Bavaria and provide valuable insights into Roman everyday culture and craftsmanship.

2 thoughts on “Roman sandal hobnails found in Bavaria

  1. ‘Caligula’ is actually the diminutive form singular of ‘caligae’, i.e. those boots, apparently a nickname that the later emperor Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus earned himself during his time in the army (at the age of two or three, he accompanied his father, Germanicus, on campaigns in Germany).

    Oberstimm is also famous for its two Roman ships:

    FAU’s Roman boats: “During the first project, which began in December 2016, the team of helpers reconstructed a Roman riverboat that would have been used at the beginning of the second century AD. The Fridericiana Alexandrina Navis, F.A.N. for short, was launched in March 2018 and made her maiden voyage in May, before departing for the Black Sea in August. Construction of a new boat called the Danuvina Alacris (or D.V.C.) began with the keel laying in May 2021 within the framework of the EU Interreg DTP project Living Danube Limes”

    “Fridericiana Alexandrina Navis, F.A.N., is based on two wrecks discovered in Oberstimm and now displayed in the Roman and Celtic museum in Manching. They are from the period A.D. 100 and were used as patrol and convoy boats, guarding the borders and providing a first line of defence in the waters of Middle Franconia and along the Danube.”

  2. It should be mentioned that Caligula’s actual name was Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and that his father’s (Germanicus) soldiers gave him the nick name Caligula (“little boots”) when he accompanied his father on campaign as a small child.

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