home | contents | glossary

Footprints Website by Will Higgs: Archaeological section

Domestic cat

Felis catus

Domestic Cat and dog footprints on Roman brick

The (ichnological) Mona Lisa of Vindolanda. This superb, almost complete, bipedalis (two-foot square brick) covered with dog & cat footprints can be seen at the site museum, along with several of my other (unacknowledged) attributions.

The dog footprints (D) can be readily identified by their prominent claws and the different morphology of the pes & manus. The cat (C) was in a big hurry, scampering across the brick; the prints are widely spaced and the toes are widely splayed. I suspect that it did not like to be out in the open, there seem to have been a lot of dogs around and perhaps a few people who would have appreciated a cat-fur trim for their armour. The rather prominent third digit shows that both the cat prints are from front feet (manus).

All the archaeological cat footprints I have seen have been very shallow, imprinted when the clay was fairly dry, as in this example. Of course, you couldn't imagine a cat walking in wet clay. Cat footprints on bricks were probably imprinted during daylight hours.

A maker's single fingertip signature (S) is also present.


SiteVindolanda Roman Fort, Northumberland
Age of Substrate25th April (V K(alendas) Maias) AD95 !
Class of substrateBipedalis
Estimated GaitFast, perhaps cantering
IdentificationSize, no claw marks, toes spread in a curve.
Held byVindolanda Trust

Domestic Cat footprint on Roman tile

This is probably the imprint of a hind foot or pes, as the 3rd digit is not prominent and the heel pad is relatively narrow.

See also modern cat footprints on this website: Domestic Cat

SiteHumberside area
Age of SubstrateRoman
Class of substrateTegula (roof tile)
IdentificationSize, no claw marks, toes spread in a curve.
Held byHumberside Archaeological Trust