Recently, archaeologists have discovered strange imprints on a Roman tile uncovered at a construction site in Leicester, England. They decided that the impressions had to be a puppy’s paw prints. Most of us forget that the Romans had pets, too. Apparently, this puppy was so excited about finding out what everyone was working on that it trampled on a newly placed brick before it had hardened, leaving a permanent memory of the dog’s existence.
Leaving impressions is not so strange. People leave their shoe prints, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose, in new sidewalks—much to the chagrin of the construction workers who just smoothed out the concrete. Celebrities leave their hand and footprints in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Dogs today have left their pawprints in sidewalks, too, as you can see in the second picture taken a few days ago at a condo complex in Florence, NJ.
In England, the archaeologists are trying to surmise the purpose of the Roman tiles. There isn’t a lot of evidence to go on. These tiles were found among some rubble that seemed to form a hard subfloor of an ancient building, but beyond that, it is a mystery as to why they were placed there. Archaeologists also discovered another tile that has hoof prints, probably from a sheep or goat. Since the animals left impressions, they would have to have stepped on the tiles before they were dry, suggesting that the tiles were newly made close to the site. Another possibility is that these tiles were scraps brought in as fillers, considered unusable in the original project because of the impressions.
Like fossils, these paw prints add to the never-ending story of life on earth. Fossil impressions tell us that a living plant or animal lived long, long ago and had a unique place in the development of life as we know it. The paw prints confirm that dogs were very much a part of the everyday life of these people.
The puppy print tile will be added to other artifacts uncovered at the site, including painted wall plaster, some brooches, coins and even ancient tweezers. Archaeologists are continuing to unearth even more artifacts in this area that are nearly 2,000 years old, dating back to the early Iron Age.
It is important that the construction crew recognized that this Roman tile with a paw print could have cultural and historic significance. It is also a wonderful reminder that animal lovers are not a new breed in human history. We have loved our pets for many millennia. Check out our slideshow of ancient pets and animals for National Pet Month!
Gannon, M. (2014, April 17). Ancient Puppy Paw Prints Found on Roman Tiles. LiveScience. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from http://www.livescience.com/44910-ancient-dog-paw-prints-roman-tiles.html
Paw Print Memory Picture
Materials: finger paint, paper, writing utensil, your pet or a friend’s pet
*NOTE: Before you begin, get your parents’ approval and help with handling any pet.
- Cover your pet’s paw with finger paint; press the paw onto a sheet of paper.
- Wash and dry the pets paw while you allow the paw print to dry on the paper.
- Write your pet’s name on the paper with a brief story of something funny that your pet did.
- Frame it and display it.
Paw Print Art
Materials: craft sponges, paint, construction paper
- Cut sponges into ovals and small circles.
- Using a variety of colors of paint and a large sheet of construction paper, have children create a design of paw prints in different colors. The prints could “walk” across the paper, or be scattered around. Click here for examples of different kinds of paw prints.
Write a fictional story about your pet or share a true adventure.
Share how your pet makes you feel. Does your pet know when you are upset or sick? How does it act toward you? This can be a discussion or an individual writing or art project.
*Note: For children who don’t own a pet, let them know that they may write about any pet they have played with or imagine having a pet. Teachers can bring a dog or cat into class for students who do not have a pet at home so that they can do the paw print activities.