Material Histories 3 – Iron

Material Histories 3 – Iron

(An occasional series to help you keep sane in an insane world)

Iron was a widely used material in antiquity, yet it is under-represented on the PAS database, especially in comparison to copper alloys. There are two primary reasons for this. The first, most obvious, reason is that it is reclaimed by the earth. It rusts away to next to nothing, or into a blob that requires x-rays to determine what it once was. The second is due to discrimination. The majority of finds on the database are detectorist finds and most detectorists continue to dial iron out. This leads to a recording bias. If it is not being looked for, it has less chance of being found. These factors make our featured find all the more remarkable.

It is an almost complete Roman iron hipposandal. These were used on horses with injured hooves, a equine orthopaedic shoe of sorts. The hipposandal is formed from a sub oval plate which tapers towards the front and rear with projections at the front, back and on either side. The two projections or wings to the sides are damaged and incomplete due to corrosion. The heel is upturned at about 45 degrees and flares outwards. It would have terminated with a downward facing hook, but that is now missing. The base of the sole is flat. The loop located by the toe is complete, still bent upwards at a 90 degree angle.

Roman Iron Hipposandal, c43 to c200 AD
Roman Iron Hipposandal, c43 to c200 AD

Overall, the hipposandal is in good condition for a Roman iron object. It is a Type 1 hipposandal as classified by Aubert in “Revue des Musees” (1929) and followed by Manning in “Catalogue of the Romano-British Iron Tools, Fittings and Weapons in the British Museum ” (Manning, 1985, pp 63-66).

The finder had the hipposandal preserved at Lancashire Conservation Studios in Preston. The image was taken by the conservator.

The material we will be looking at next time is Gritty Ware.

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