Vindolanda and the dating of roman footwear
you most irreligious fellow who hasn't even sent me a single letter"); applications for leave ("I ask you, Lord Cerialis, that you hold me worthy for you to grant me leave"); official correspondence; "strength reports" listing the number of men present, absent or ill; inventories; supply orders; travel expense account details ("2 wagon axles, 3.5 denarii; wine-lees, 0.25 denarii"); and recipes.One plaintive plea to the Roman emperor Hadrian himself reads: "As befits an honest man I implore Your Majesty not to allow me, an innocent man, to have been beaten with rods..." Chances are this was never sent.The Vindolanda tablets (also known as Vindolanda Letters) are thin pieces of wood about the size of a modern postcard, which were used as writing paper for the Roman soldiers garrisoned at the fort of Vindolanda between AD 85 and 130.Such tablets have been found at other Roman sites, including nearby Carlisle, but not in as much abundance.The writers of the Vindolanda documents include soldiers, officers and their wives and families who were garrisoned at Vindolanda, as well as merchants and slaves and correspondents at many different cities and forts throughout the vast Roman empire, including Rome, Antioch, Athens, Carlisle, and London.The writers wrote exclusively in Latin on the tablets, although the texts mostly lack punctuation or proper spelling; there is even some Latin shorthand which has yet to be deciphered.Because of that, the floors of the fort were carpeted with a thickish (5-30 cm) combination of mosses, bracken, and straw.
The most common pen nib was made of a good quality iron by a blacksmith, who sometimes embellished them with chevrons or bronze leaf or inlay, depending on the customer.
Tanning can be accomplished by the treatment of animal skins with oils or fats or by smoking, but none of those methods result in permanent and water-resistant leather.
True tanning uses vegetable extracts to create a chemically stable product, which is resistant to bacterial decay, and has resulted in the preservation of many examples of ancient shoes from damp environments such as riverside encampments and backfilled wells.
In Latin texts, such as those of Pliny the Elder, these kinds of tablets are referred to as leaf tablets or sectiles or laminae--Pliny used them to keep notes for his The tablets are thin slivers (.5 cm to 3 mm thick) of imported spruce or larch, which for the most part measure about 10 x 15 cm (~4x6 inches).
The surface of the wood was smoothed and treated so it could be used for writing.