Did the Romans have horseshoes?

A news item in the Swindon Advertiser about a new flyover includes this:

The work has also uncovered a number of archaeological finds.

In January workmen discovered three iron horseshoes and a medieval arrowhead.

As well as recovering the artefacts, archaeologists may also have found evidence that the Roman road was in use well into the medieval period.

At the time Neil Holbrook, an archaeologist for the Highways Agency said the fact that Romans didn't have horseshoes is evidence that the road has been important for the last 2,000 years.

The argument is rather abreviated, but seems to be that:

  1. This was a Roman road
  2. The Romans didn't use horseshoes
  3. Horseshoes have been dug up on the road
  4. Therefore the road was in use at a later time when horseshoes were used.

The conclusion “the road has been important for the last 2,000 years” does not really follow.

But did the Romans not use horseshoes? The answer is yes, Jim, but not as we know them.

Catullus writes about a mule losing its shoe in sticky mud.

Reading Museum, not so far from Swindon, has several Roman horseshoes.

The catch is that these were removeable metal 'shoes' (hipposandals), which I imagine were carried by travellers to be fitted in certain conditions, as a motorist might carry chains for use in snow. If I can find my slides of Roman horseshoes, I'll put a picture on line. Meanwhile, you can see a large clear picture on the British Museum site here:

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