Ancient Roman boxing gloves found in Britain

A pair of Roman boxing gloves dating from around 120 A.D. were found near Britain’s Adrian Wall and put on display at the Vindolanda Trust in Britain Tuesday.

Boxing was a popular sport in Roman times to develop fights skills and fitness. Photo by Vindolanda Trust
Boxing was a popular sport in Roman times to develop fights skills and fitness. Photo by Vindolanda Trust

The leather gloves are still intact and still have knuckle indentions from the original user. They’re cut from a single piece of leather and designed to fold over the wearer’s knuckles to absorb impact.
“I have seen representations of Roman boxing gloves depicted on bronze statues, paintings and sculptures, but to have the privilege of finding two real leather examples is exceptionally special,” said Dr. Andrew Birley, CEO and director of excavations at the Vindolanda Trust, told the Hexham Courant.

We have had lots of great comments about our temporary boxing glove display (we are working on the permanent exhibition!) Thanks to @phillipscreativ and @ellissigns for making it happen. #Vindolanda
Birley added that “the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you realize that you have discovered something as astonishing as these boxing gloves.”

Patricia Birley researched the gloves and told The Guardian that she believes these are the first Roman boxing gloves to still be in existence, despite the rich history the sport had in Roman times.

“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,” she said. “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.”

By Ray Downs