Sunday, November 13, 2005

Is it a stoat? No, it's a cat!

Spurriergate is a great site for ceramic building materials (my assessment for the first phase of work is not yet on the Web as it was done in 2000, and I leave these things at least five years before putting them into the public domain, just in case the client has some objections). Not only has Spurriergate got very strong early medieval (11th-12th century) roofing material sample, but it's got a lovely collection of Roman material.

Chief amongst the loveliness is a small collection of imprints. There are some good hobnail prints, but also some animal pawprints. As well as dog and sheep/goat, there was one I was uncertain about. Could it be a stoat? The prints were very faint and I had difficulty with matching it with my big book of animal prints (aka Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang & Dahlstrom). Thought in might be a stoat because it was very small, though the claws didn't show, but this could be perhaps because the clay might have been fairly dry. However, the small prints could be small because of the shrinkage of clay ... Going round in cirles here. So ...

Time to call in the expert! Will Higgs has done a goodly amount of work on animal prints on tiles. He was able to say that it was in fact a cat. I was disappointed, as previously I had managed to identify stoat pawprints on a tile from Layerthorpe (see my publication report here).

Since not everyone can get hold of the excellent Will Higgs or the Bang & Dahlstrom back-up, I checked out the Web for some animal track links: - as you might suspect, this is a US site, but there are one or two animals on their list that appear in the UK. There are some good pictures of cat pawprints. - good on gait patterns

Never mind, there's always another tile sample to play with! And I'll be back on a Roman one on 16th November when I teach the Brick and Tile workshop at the Yorkshire Museum. Initially, I had my eyes on the Bedern sample (see my notes on some of the cbm from this site here), but changed my mind. Bedern is a medieval sample, and all that implies - basically flaming bewildering for beginners; too many forms, way too many fabrics, plus probably residual Roman material mixed in. Nightmare!

Roman material in York tends (but not always) to have less fabrics, and a relatively limited amount of forms. So I've gone for the sample from Blake Street, York instead. It's an all singing, all dancing Roman site, dug in the 1970s and the sample's never been assessed, let alone recorded. Perhaps there'll be some animal pawprints for the beginners to find as well!

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