An­i­mals loved a night on the tiles in Ro­man times

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IN Ro­man times peo­ple liked to party, but it turns out that the hu­mans were not on their own, and on oc­ca­sion – when the pop­u­lus de­cided to turn in for the night – it is ev­i­dent that badgers and other an­i­mals were up for a night on the tiles as well.

Sorry but for two rea­sons I could not re­sist the corny link when I dis­cov­ered the bad­ger foot­prints pic­tured here in a Ro­man ter­ra­cotta tile.

Firstly, the very thought of Old Brock traips­ing over the tiles as they were laid out to dry, and sec­ondly, that the Ro­man builders were quite happy to use the tiles on the roof, foot­prints and all.

It turns out that there are count­less ex­am­ples like these across the former Ro­man Em­pire, and the foot­prints even in­clude those of young boys, such as one dis­cov­ered in Northum­ber­land last year.

You would hope the mis­cre­ant got a good telling off by the tiler, be­cause it is not as though you could not see the tiles laid out in their hun­dreds.

At least the an­i­mals had an ex­cuse, the tiles were just in the way. Most com­mon are the foot­prints of dif­fer­ent do­mes­tic an­i­mals: dogs, cats, and small ru­mi­nants,which is a sign that these an­i­mals were stray­ing around the tilery, in­stead of be­ing kept in an en­closed area.

The pres­ence of live­stock in a tile man­u­fac­tur­ing work­shop might sug­gest that the tile­mak­ers prac­ticed an­i­mal hus­bandry, or sim­ply that the an­i­mals of a nearby farm or gar­den could wan­der around the dry­ing area.

In a de­tailed study of the so-called Silch­ester tiles (Hamp­shire) the foot­prints of 91 in­di­vid­ual an­i­mals al­most ex­clu­sively be­longed to do­mes­tic an­i­mals, with one crow and a fox foot­print. Fifty-five of the im­pres­sions were made by dogs or cats, 22 by small ru­mi­nants, 6 by cat­tle, 7 by birds (mostly chicken), and 1 by a horse.

The foot­prints of Vin­dolanda (Ch­ester­holm, Northum­ber­land), which is the largest col­lec­tion of foot­prints with 111 im­printed tiles, mostly be­long to do­mes­tic an­i­mals as well. Over 80 per cent of the tracks were made by dogs.

The pres­ence of the foot­prints of wild an­i­mals, on the other hand, makes it rea­son­able to as­sume that the dry­ing area was not sur­rounded by a fence, and was there­fore ac­ces­si­ble to wildlife.

A good ex­am­ple is the Is­raeli site of Ke­far ‘Oth­nay, near the camp of the le­gio VI fer­rata, where, be­side the dog and cat paw­prints, the foot­prints of small wild car­ni­vores, such as bad­ger also ap­pear on the tiles, as seen above.

An­other ex­am­ple could be the Ro­man tilery of Casa Cam­pacci in Livorno, Italy, where two thirds of the 18 tile frag­ments were cov­ered with foot­prints be­long­ing to wild an­i­mals. The foot­prints of do­mes­tic an­i­mals at this site were lim­ited to dogs and cats.

Al­though most im­printed tiles bear the tracks of mam­mals, some­times the traces of other an­i­mals, birds or am­phib­ians are pre­served as well. One of the most sur­pris­ing is an im­pres­sion on a tile from Aquin­cum (Bu­dapestÓbuda, Hun­gary) - the im­print of a frog’s ab­domen.

Ac­cord­ing to ar­chaeo­zo­o­log­i­cal re­search the most com­mon do­mes­tic an­i­mals in Ro­man Pan­nonia, present-day western Hun­gary, eastern Aus­tria, northern Croa­tia, north-western Ser­bia, northern Slove­nia, western Slo­vakia and northern Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina, were cat­tle, sheep/goat, pig, dog, cat and do­mes­tic fowl, but some oth­ers were also present, such as horse, ass, goose and pi­geon. Wild an­i­mals at­tested on Pan­non­ian sites in­clude au­rochs, red deer, roe deer, wild swine, wild cat, bad­ger, fox, wolf, beaver, brown hare and 16 species of wild birds.

Bad­ger foot­print in Ro­man tile

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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