Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Frontier Fashionistas Volume 56 Number 1, January/February 2003
by Theo Toebosch

A cache of Roman shoes heralded as "ancient Guccis" for their style and quality has been discovered by amateur Dutch underwater archaeologists in the Meuse River southeast of Amsterdam. The six complete shoes, dating from the fourth century A.D., were found in an ancient garbage dump near the site of a Roman fort.


(Courtesy Amsterdam Archaeological Center)

It was an exciting discovery for ancient-shoe specialist Carol van Driel-Murray of the University of Amsterdam. "I've never seen shoes this well preserved. Until now, we had to rely on depictions of shoes on statues and in paintings and mosaics," she says. It also confirms that Romans had a habit of walking on their laces: some of the shoes found have a long lace that would have wrapped around the top of the foot, run beneath the shoe and secured back on top. "It might seem impractical to us," concedes van Driel-Murray, "but I'm convinced it worked."

The shoes belonged to men, women and children, suggesting that not only soldiers lived in the nearby military camp. The well-made, stylish shoes also demonstrate that life on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire could be quite civilized.

© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America