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The Roman sandal in situ, discovered in Lugo de Llanera, Asturias.      Source: Esperanza Martin/Astures

Unique 2,000-Year-Old Sandal Found In A Roman Well In Spain

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A collection of artifacts, including a unique Roman sandal thought to have been lost by a well-cleaner 2,000-years-ago, has been uncovered at an ancient Roman settlement called Lucus Asturum in northern Spain. The current round of excavations at the site is a continuation of digs conducted two years ago when a team of archaeologists uncovered a large house with a courtyard and a well. This time around, a system of pulleys was employed to descend into the well's depths, to see what treasures it might hold.

Unicum: Roman Sandal Is Truly One of a Kind!

The most exciting artifact is a one-of-a-kind archaeological find, technically termed as a unicum. The Roman sandal is distinguished by its design - circles, ovals, and falciform (sickle-like) patterns. Within Hispania, there are scarcely more than 20 preserved Roman sandals, and this particular one stands alone in its make and decoration. It is in an exceptional state of preservation, owing to the anaerobic environment created by the silt at the well's bottom, effectively preventing the proliferation of microorganisms, reports El Pais.

“The remains we found, due to the anoxia generated by the high water table in the area, are in an exceptional state,” says archaeologist Esperanza Martín, who led both the first dig at the site in modern day Lugo de Llanera in Asturias, northern Spain in 2021, and the current exploration. “The silts have created an anaerobic environment thanks to the plasticity of the clays that compose them, so the organic materials have been perfectly preserved,” she added, reports Arkeonews.

Archaeologist Esperanza Martín descends into the well discovered in Lugo de Llanera. The unique Roman sandal was found well-preserved due to the environment and sediment at the bottom of the well. (Angel Villa)

Archaeologist Esperanza Martín descends into the well discovered in Lugo de Llanera. The unique Roman sandal was found well-preserved due to the environment and sediment at the bottom of the well. (Angel Villa)

At a depth of approximately 3 meters (9.85 ft), the experts successfully retrieved a fragment of the well's wooden cover, a specially designed tiled floor for silt separation, as well as a fascinating collection of items, as mentioned. These included numerous jars, an assortment of seeds, chestnuts, pine nuts, mollusk shells, remnants of both domestic and wild fauna, an impressive bronze cauldron known as an "acetre," a dainty metal ring, and, notably, the Roman sandal.

“It is almost complete and retains the cutting notches to hold it in the upper leg area. It is more than likely that it was lost by someone who came in to clean [the well] when it got caught in the silt. It is a unique object, as it is decorated,” added Martín.

Lucus Asturum: A History of Occupation and Excavation

Lucus Asturum, situated in the northern region of the Iberian Peninsula during the period spanning from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD, served as a prominent administrative center and vital communication hub. Its historical significance is underscored by its mention in the renowned work "Geography" by the Greek polymath, Ptolemy. This city boasted a plethora of both public and private structures, attesting to its pivotal role in the era.

Lucus Asturum. Excavation de 2023. (Esperanza Martín/Astures)

Lucus Asturum. Excavation de 2023. (Esperanza Martín/Astures)

The historical significance of Lucus Asturum has been acknowledged since ancient times, but its traces were lost over the centuries until the Provincial Commission of Monuments conducted the initial excavations during the 1930s. Unfortunately, all the archaeological findings and related documentation from that period have long vanished or been destroyed.

In 1989, Carmen Fernández Ochoa's team managed to rediscover the site, uncovering a votive altar dedicated to the Lares viales (household deities), a medieval necropolis, and well-preserved remains dating back to the 1st century AD. In 2018, with the support and funding of the Llanera City Council, excavations were once again initiated.

This time, the archaeologists adopted non-invasive techniques such as the Lidar laser detection system, geophysical surveys, satellite imagery, and thermography. Through these methods, they revealed an underlying archaeological layer beneath the meadows, which included a set of notably large baths that had unfortunately suffered extensive plundering, and a well-preserved canal, reports El Pais.

The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the excavation efforts. When work resumed in 2021, the team made further discoveries: a refuse dump dating back to the period between the 1st and 4th centuries, several distinct structures separated by a road, and a substantial residential area that featured the aforementioned well, still bearing the stonework marks from its original opening some two millennia ago!

Top image: The Roman sandal in situ, discovered in Lugo de Llanera, Asturias.      Source: Esperanza Martin/Astures

By Sahir Pandey

References

Bartek, J. 2023. Unique 2,000-Year-Old Decorated Roman Sandal Lost By Well-Cleaner Found In Spain. Available at: https://www.ancientpages.com/2023/10/19/2000-year-old-sandal-spain/.

Büyükyıldırım, O. 2023. Unique 2,000-year-old Decorated Roman Sandal Discovered in Spain. Available at: https://arkeonews.net/unique-2000-year-old-decorated-roman-sandal-discovered-in-spain/.

Olaya, V.G. 2023. The Roman well-cleaner who lost a sandal 2,000 years ago in Spain. Available at: https://english.elpais.com/culture/2023-10-17/the-roman-well-cleaner-who-lost-a-sandal-2000-years-ago-in-spain.html.

 
Sahir's picture

Sahir

I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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