Archaeologists find human footprint left by naughty teenager 2,000 years ago at Roman fort

By Ben Miller | 30 June 2015

Adolescent could have been dodging a telling-off on Roman Tyneside

A photo of a dark red tile with a human footprint within it against a black background
The first Roman footprint by a human at Vindolanda has been found in a tile© Vindolanda Trust
A tile with a “clear imprint” of a foot is the first time a human print has been discovered at the industrious Roman fort of Vindolanda, say archaeologists who suspect the freshly-made slab could have been accidentally or mischievously stood on by an adolescent sometime between 160 and 180 AD.

More than 6,000 leather shoes have previously been found at the Hadrian’s Wall site near the village of Bardon Mill. But the new find, made by Canadian student volunteer Mel Benard, is the clearest footstep left behind by the people who once roamed the north-east.

A photo of a woman holding a dark red tile at an outdoor archaeological site
Mel Benard with her discovery© Vindolanda Trust
“I knew straight away that it was a footprint,” says Benard, from the University of Western Ontario, whose tile is contemporary with a kiln site uncovered at Vindolanda.

“This was the first artefact that I had found. Finding something which would be considered special enough to go on display in the Vindolanda Museum was one of the ambitions of the Field School.

“It is so exciting to have discovered something which links you directly to that individual nearly 2,000 years later. We are all absolutely thrilled.”

Dr Elizabeth Green, the Co-Director of the Field School, says the site’s archaeology can shed light on “otherwise voiceless individuals”.

“I imagine the boy or girl who stepped in this newly produced tile was in more than a little trouble,” she thinks.

“This find is really extraordinary. It brings full circle the story that Vindolanda has to tell.”

This season’s excavations continue until September 25 2015.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of two dark red tiles on a wooden table
Animal prints on wall tiles previously discovered at the site© Vindolanda Trust
A photo of a dark red tile with print visible on it placed on a wooden table
Dog paws© Vindolanda Trust
A photo of a dark red tile with print visible on it
Pig prints© Vindolanda Trust
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