Ancient Roman Boxing Gloves Unearthed In The UK

The origins of modern combat sports can be traced back thousands and thousands of years, to the gladiators of the Roman Empire, to the sport of Pankration in Ancient Greece, and even further into the dusty annals of history. A recent archaeological discovery made in the United Kingdom provides an awesome reminder of just how old the tradition of combat sports is.

Just south of Hadrian’s Wall – an ancient barricade intended to separate the Romans from the unruly Picts of the North – archeologists have discovered a pair of ancient boxing gloves. These gloves (which are really more like hand wraps) were found in a Roman cavalry barrack beneath a fourth-century fort called Vindolanda. They’re believed to be nearly 2000 years old, dating back to roughly AD120. Although the tradition of boxing in Ancient Rome is well documented, they are believed to be the only surviving example of their kind.

Despite the remarkable age of these gloves, they are incredibly well preserved, as they were sealed under a concrete floor, and thereby protected from the decaying-power of oxygen and other elements. The gloves are so well preserved that they can still be worn comfortably. One of the gloves even seems to have been repaired by its ancient user, and amazingly still bears the imprint of the fighter’s knuckles.

Speaking to The Guardian, Patricia Birley, the former director of the Vindolanda Trust, had this to say about the gloves:

“It’s always tremendously exciting when you find something that you know about through other sources – depictions on wall paintings, vases … but to see the real thing is something quite unique. You learn so much more … For example, the larger of the gloves has been repaired. The owner has really wanted to keep this thing going, so he’s done his utmost to repair it and patch it. It’s that human touch that you get through the real object.”

Per The Guardian, these will be displayed among other similar artifacts at the Vindolanda site museum. Make sure to check ‘em out on your next trip to the UK!

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