ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found two rare examples of Roman boxing gloves near Bardon Mill.

The ancient leather gloves are the latest of many treasures to be unearthed at Vindolanda Roman Fort.

Although they are not a matching pair, research has indicated they are boxing gloves, and probably the only known surviving examples from the Roman period.

In Roman times, boxing was used as a martial art activity to increase physical skills and fitness.

Boxing competitions took place in front of crowds of spectators, and it was an activity that Roman garrisons were believed to have gambled on.

Unlike modern boxing gloves, the ancient examples uncovered at Vindolanda were designed to fit snugly over the knuckles, protecting them from impact.

Dr Andrew Birley, chief executive officer and director of excavations at the Vindolanda Trust, which runs the site, said: “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.

“What really makes Vindolanda so unique is the range of organic objects that we find.

“Every one of them brings you closer to the people who lived here nearly 2,000 years ago.

“But the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you realise that you have discovered something as astonishing as these boxing gloves.”

The larger of the two gloves is cut from a single piece of leather and was folded into a pouch configuration.

It showed signs of wear, and had undergone repair, with a tear covered with a circular patch.

The slightly smaller glove was uncovered in near perfect condition with the same construction, but filled with a tight coil of hard, twisted leather.

The gloves, which were likely to have been used for sparring, are now on display in the museum at Vindolanda, where the finds from last summer’s excavations include writing tablets, swords, leather shoes, bag cloths, combs and dice.