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 The second stage fort would be garrisoned by a cavalry unit until troops were withdrawn in the 120s A.D. after the establishment of the northern Limes.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.