Roman dog, goat and sheep imprints found by archaeologists in Leicester

By Ben Miller | 20 April 2014

Animal paw prints and pottery from the Iron Age and Medieval periods have been discovered on the former grounds of a Roman building in Leicester

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Hoof and paw prints left by dogs, sheep and goats around 2,000 years ago have been discovered among a raft of ancient objects at a suspected Roman coin mint in Leicester.

A distinct animal imprint on a tile was one of the first artefacts found during the dig at Blackfriars in the city centre, which began at the start of the year on grounds once occupied by the Corieltauvi – a tribe whose coins provided the largest hoard of Iron Age coins ever found in Britain in the form of the Hallaton Treasure, unearthed in 2000.

Telltale signs of farm animals have been seen on tiles discovered during the past few days.

Wallpaper painted in a brown and white design and a fragment of rotary quern – a stone handmill used to produce flour and grind ingredients in food, dyes and medicines – have also been found in a hugely revealing excavation around a former multi-level building with Iron Age features built on sand and gravel.

“The various phases of masonry, floors and column bases are all tending to indicate a building that changed in form and function over time,” said Philip Bridges, who has been providing regular updates from a project which forced archaeologists to work on a swamp during the poor weather conditions of February.

“The present, tentative theory is that the building originally had an internal courtyard surrounded by a peristyle – a columned porch or open colonnade – before additional structural elements were added, possibly making the building covered and aisled.

“Various phases of industry appear to have occurred internally with a kiln and small, waste bronze fragments being identified.

“This change in function may reflect the fluctuating economy of Roman Britain and the fortunes of the building’s owners.”

The style of a carved stone found at the site could suggest that the building was ransacked and used in the construction of medieval buildings.

“An area of burning in the internal rubble indicates that a hearth or similar feature previously existed but has been removed during later disturbance and robbing,” said Bridges.

“The site currently has multiple phases of archaeology with probably two or more phases of Iron Age activity, three or more phases of Roman activity and multiple medieval features cut into the earlier archaeology.

“Abundant quantities of pottery have been recovered which will allow the exact phasing of the site to be pieced together during post-excavation.”

A whetstone for sharpening knives and cutting tools, an oyster shell with a square nail shell and a mysterious bone disc – possibly used as a gaming piece or a decorative item – have all surfaced.

Several examples of the Samian Ware held by high status Romans contain maker's marks, allowing the Gaul workshops and potters who made them to be identified.

Developers Watkin Jones are proposing to create student accommodation at the site following the completion of the dig.

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