Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:15 PM
n2doc (44,967 posts)
1 Kitty, 2 Empires, 2,000 Years: World History Told Through a Brick
FEB 21 2013, 10:59 AM ET
At some moment a few years after Jesus Christ died but before the second century began, someone made a brick on the island that would become the cornerstone of Great Britain. The area was controlled by Rome then, and known as Britannia and as the brick lay green, awaiting the kiln, a cat walked across the wet clay and left its footprints before wandering off to do something else. The clay was fired, the prints fixed, and the brick itself presumably became a piece of a building or road.
Two thousand years later, a Sonoma State master's student named Kristin Converse was poking around the holdings of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington state. She was writing her thesis on the business and technology of brickmaking in Portlandia (known more formally as the Willamette Valley). A brick caught her eye. It was part of an odd group that was not of local origin. In one corner, there were the footprints of a cat. Where had this cat lived?
Back in 1982, the bricks in question had been examined by an archaeologist named Karl Gurcke who specializes in the identification of bricks. "The only bricks that come near to matching this type in size are the so-called 'Roman' bricks," Gurcke wrote in a report on excavations at Fort Vancouver. This suggested that the "type may indeed be Roman in origin," and that they were "shipped over from England."
Converse tested the presumed Roman bricks, using a process called neutron activation analysis, which allows scientists to determine the elemental components of a material. Bricks made from different clays and at different times show particular chemical signatures, so she could compare bricks from the Fort to bricks from Endland. "They tested very well like Roman bricks from England," Bob Cromwell, an archaeologist at Fort Vancouver told me. "It is still a hypothesis, but the data is all pointing in that direction: the size and the elemental analysis compares very favorably with definitive Roman bricks."
The question became, then, how did a Roman brick from the British Isles get to Fort Vancouver?
7 replies, 1711 views
Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
1 Kitty, 2 Empires, 2,000 Years: World History Told Through a Brick (Original post)
|Name removed||Jul 2013||#7|
Response to n2doc (Original post)
Fri Feb 22, 2013, 12:26 PM
catbyte (8,453 posts)
3. Indeed, LOL. Throughout history they've left their mark...
The 15th-Century Equivalent of Your Cat Walking on Your Keyboard
By Rebecca J. Rosen
Feb 19 2013, 11:11 AM ET 8
I'm in ur manuscript, making a mess.
Emir O. Filipovic
For cat owners, the scene is all too familiar: You sit down to finally (finally!) get some work done, and along comes kitty, here to stroll across your keyboard.
Now, via medievalist Emir O. Filipovic, evidence that cats have been up to this same mischief for six centuries: inky pawprints, gracing a page of the 13th volume of "Lettere e commissioni di Levante," which collated copies of letters and instructions that the Dubrovnik/Ragusan government sent to its merchants and envoys throughout southeastern Europe (Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia etc.), according to Filipovic -- sort of a 15th-century Federal Register. The particular document that the cat got its paws on dates to March 11th, 1445.
More than just a silly reminder that cats never change (surprise!), the pawprints flicker through time to describe to us a little something about the person who once lived and who set those words to that page. As Kate Beaton described it on Twitter: