A team of archaeologists in Northumberland, England have unearthed what they believe to be the oldest surviving pair of Roman boxing gloves.
The gloves were discovered at an ancient Roman barracks site called Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall. They were found neatly “concealed beneath a concrete floor laid by the Romans,” with a collection of swords, writing tools and shoes, according to the Daily Mail. Since the gloves are so well preserved, scientists are calling the pair of boxing globes an “astonishing discovery.”
— Society of Ancients (@Soc_Ancients) September 10, 2017
It’s also pretty astonishing because the gloves likely date back to around 118-120 AD.
— Alex McClintock (@axmcc) February 19, 2018
While some Roman statues have depicted boxers from that general time period, this is the first time scientists are getting a glimpse of what the life of a boxer might have actually looked like.
It’s impossible not to be affected by this statue of a bloodied, bruised Roman boxer. 3rd-1st C BC. pic.twitter.com/6sGjphBO5S
— Ben Kane (@BenKaneAuthor) February 24, 2016
What’s interesting about the two newly discovered gloves is that they’re not identical. An archaeologist involved in the dig notes that one glove is smaller and “in near perfect condition.” The smaller glove is also filled with a tightly wrapped coil of leather that likely packed an extra punch when striking an opponent. The larger glove is also pretty impressive — it’s made entirely of one piece of leather and filled with an indiscernible natural material to absorb impact.
Though boxing precedes the Roman Empire, in its heyday, Roman soldiers practiced boxing and other hand-to-hand combat to keep them sharp and prepared for battle.
The gloves, which were likely abandoned by a Roman soldier during the British Rebellion, will be displayed this week in England.
As a former Rome resident I can attest to the general savageness of ancient Roman soldiers and gladiators. Those guys didn’t mess around. They used to skin entire bears and wear their hides in battles. Some of their weapons included pieces of wood that looked like baseball bats covered in nails.
I remember visiting an ancient gladiator site just outside Rome and witnessing the squalor conditions they used to live in. This recent discovery of boxing gloves made entirely of leather only adds to the overall impressiveness of the ancient Romans.
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