Friday, January 18, 2013



EVEN on the farthest-flung frontiers of the ancient Roman Empire, the footwear made the man ­— and the kid.

Children and infants living at Hadrian-era Roman military bases wore shoes that revealed the kids' social status, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

The teeny-tiny shoes, some sized for infants, not only reveal that families were part of Roman military life, but also show that children were dressed to match their parent's place in the social hierarchy, said study researcher Elizabeth Greene of the University of Western Ontario.

"The role of dress in expressing status was prominent even for children of the very youngest ages," Greene said.

Just as today's modern kid might rock a pair of shoes covered in their favorite superheroes, or that light up with every step, ancient Roman kids of well-off families wore more decorative shoes than their commoner contemporaries, Greene's research reveals.

Over 4,000 shoes have been found at Vindolanda, a Roman army fort in northern Britain that was occupied from the first to fourth centuries.

In every time period of the fort's operation, even the very early frontier days, children's shoes show up in crumbled domestic spaces, official military buildings and rubbish heaps, Greene said.

"We don't even have a period, not even Period 1, where we're free of children's shoes," she said.

The shoes show that families accompanied soldiers and had a role in military life, even from the earliest days of occupation, Greene said. What's more, their children were locked into their social class early on.

"Even the infant children of the prefect were held to the expectations of dress according to one's class," Greene said.

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