Finding well-preserved organic material, such as leather, is great because it often doesn’t survive, due to various geological factors, such as acidic soil. In the case of the Walcot Street pit, a clay layer allowed the leather to stay damp and preserved.
I have been looking at two main types of shoe: The ‘Carbatina’ and the ‘Calceus’. Both types of shoe would have been worn as outdoor shoes, covering most of the foot. The soles show evidence of hobnailing - providing protection for the soles against the damp ground.
The stereotypical image of a Roman wearing sandals and a toga is not a Romano-British one - would you wear sandals in the middle of a British winter?! In Rome, flip-flop like ‘Solea’ were worn as house shoes, although in Rome it was deemed uncivilised to wear sandals with a toga.
The collection of shoe pieces found at Walcot Street also contains evidence of Roman ‘Soccus’, a slipper-type shoe. It is also likely that Romano-British wore socks under their Calcei to keep their feet warm.
|A Man wearing Soccus|
It is believed that Walcot Street pit was situated near a cobbler’s shop and this would explain the large quantity of shoe soles and leather offcuts.
I believe it more likely that they wore Soccus or cloth socks instead of Solea, which wouldn’t have kept the feet warm. The fragile nature of these cloth shoes would mean that they were less likely to have been preserved in the pit.
|Make your own Carbitina!|
Georgina - Roman Baths Volunteer