Four Early Roman Horseshoes Dug Up In England

Vindolanda fort remains one of the more 'live sites,' say curators.

Rusty horse shoes
Repina Valeriya / Shutterstock

Vindolanda fort remains one of the more 'live sites,' say curators.

Curator Barbara Birley at Vindolanda in England, near Hexham in Northumberland, spoke to reporters at BBC News about the “incredibly rare” full set of iron hipposandals that were recently dug up by a volunteer at an archaeological dig. These iron hipposandals, or better known as horseshoes to many, were apparently so well preserved that the tread on them, which is used to stop a horse from slipping, was still visible to researchers.

One of the 250 volunteers that help carry out digs at the Vindolanda fort every year was responsible for digging up these horseshoes. The horseshoes are estimated to be dated between 140AD and 180AD. Birley explained to journalists that since the Romans were in Britain between 400 and 500 years, researchers and volunteers digging at the site could potentially still unearth Roman treasures for the next 150 years. There are apparently layers upon layers of area and possible finds for archaeologists to get through at this particular site, according to Birley’s remarks.

“Basically, over the years, nine forts have been built on this site – every time new Roman arrivals came, they covered over the remains from the last fort with clay and turf to make solid foundations for their fort.”

One of the horseshoes apparently had a hairline fracture, so it is believed that the set of four may have been thrown in the ditch where they were found, due to damage. These hipposandals, or horseshoes, were being cleaned at the fort as of Saturday, with plans to display the set at the nearby Roman Army Museum in Greenhead, upcoming in February 2018 after the museum reopens.

The Vindolanda website states that the site is regarded by many “as one of the most exciting archaeological sites in Europe” and says that Vindolanda’s story is “literally unfolding before our very eyes on a daily basis as more artifacts are uncovered.” Those volunteers and researchers digging at the site range from archaeologist to students, interested volunteers and friends, and even amateur archaeologists alike. Vindolanda is considered a “live site,” which is claimed to set it apart from many other digs, and brings people from all over the globe who are willing to travel to take part in the digging. The site even has a page dedicated to getting people to volunteer via the Excavation Bookings link.

Volunteering is not cost-free. There are varying costs, depending on if a person wishes to only participate in the excavation only, or if they will need full occupancy. To join in excavation only is £150 per period, which equates to $194.11 USD. To acquire full occupancy while participating in the excavation, the cost is £1100 per period for a single person, meaning $1423.47 USD per period. Vindolanda does have a two-person discount for occupancy, making the cost for a pair £1800 per period ($2329.32 USD).