Enamelled Roman Sandal Brooch, Pakenham

front of green enamelled sandal brooch

A delicate enamelled brooch in the shape of a Roman sandal or shoe sole, dating to AD 100-200.

This brooch was found whilst metal detecting as a part of an excavation in the northern areas of Pakenham Roman small town. The excavations also revealed a high-status building with a hypocaust and possibly a bath house.

The brooch measures 42mm long and 9.8mm wide. The copper-alloy brooch plate has been filled with a pale green coloured enamel and a series of dis-coloured alternating red and blue enamel spots representing hobnails. There are 32 tiny hobnail spots – 27 are evenly spaced around the edge of the brooch, one has been placed in the heel of the foot and a group of four nail holes form a diamond shape where the ball of the foot would sit. Some of these nails holes contain an off-white coloured enamel or glass. The shape of this brooch suggests that it represents a right foot.

It is thought that these brooches could have been worn as individual items or as part of a pair with a chain suspended between them. The small loop that would have held the chain is present on this brooch, its placement at the heel indicates these brooches were worn with the toe pointing downwards.

It is difficult to say where this brooch was made, as they are a common find across the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Unsurprisingly, they are also common across Suffolk with examples coming from places such as Hacheston, Mildenhall and Coddenham. Amazingly, at least two very similar sandal brooches were discovered within 200m of this one! It would be lovely if one of these other Pakenham sandal brooches (PKM 005, PKM 037) were this one’s pair!

Conserved Roman leather shoes from Vindolanda, Hadrian's Wall.
Conserved Roman leather shoes from Vindolanda, Hadrian’s Wall (Photograph from: http://www.vindolanda.com/_blog/press-releases/post/if-the-shoe-fits/)

For more information
Blagg, T., Plouviez, J. and Tester, A. 2004. Excavations at a Romano-British settlement at Hacheston, Suffolk in 1973-4. East Anglian Archaeology Report Number 106

Suffolk County Council Archaeological Archives

The ‘From the Vaults’ series is written by the County Council’s Archaeological Archives Officer

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