Science/Nature

Roman boxing gloves unearthed by Vindolanda dig

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The gloves on a mannequinImage copyright
Vindolanda Trust

Image caption

The gloves were “skilfully made” about 2,000 years ago

Roman boxing gloves unearthed during an excavation near Hadrian’s Wall have gone on public display.

Experts at Vindolanda, near Hexham, in Northumberland, believe they are “probably the only known surviving examples from the Roman period”.

Dr Andrew Birley, Vindolanda Trust director of excavations, described the leather bands as an “astonishing” find.

The gloves were discovered last summer along with a hoard of writing tablets, swords, shoes and bath clogs.

Made of leather, they were designed to fit snugly over the knuckles and have the appearance of a protective guard.

‘Hairs stand up’

Dr Birley said: “I have seen representations of Roman boxing gloves depicted on bronze statues, paintings and sculptures, but to have the privilege of finding two real leather examples is exceptionally special.

“The hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you realise you have discovered something as astonishing as these boxing gloves.”

The larger of the two is filled with natural material, which would have acted as a shock absorber.

The smaller glove, found “in near perfect condition”, is filled with a coil of hard, twisted leather.

It is understood they would have been used for sparring sessions as they do not have metal inserts used in ancient boxing bouts.

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