Ancient footprint discovery leaves lasting impression at Vindolanda

Vindolanda Trust - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nowhere gets you closer to the Romans on Hadrian’s Wall than the fort and settlement of Vindolanda, the extraordinary hoard of personal artefacts gives you a unique insight into the lives of people living here 2000 years ago. The latest addition to the collection of artefacts from the current excavation has certainly made an impression on everyone. Someone 2000 years ago quite literally put their foot in it and as a result a volunteer digging at the site has unearthed a tile with a clear imprint of a human foot that accidentally, or perhaps mischievously stood on the freshly made object.


The partial print of a right foot, thought to be comparable with that of an adolescent has been dated to 160-180 CE. The volunteer who found the tile was student Mel Benard who is digging at Vindolanda with a Canadian Field School from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Mel, who was delighted with the discovery explained “this was the first artefact that I had found, I knew straight away that it was a footprint and it is so exciting to have discovered something which links you directly to that individual nearly 2000 years later”


Many thousands of tiles have been found at Vindolanda, some occasionally with the imprint of an animal left behind but this is the first time a human print has been discovered at the site. “This find is really extraordinary”, explains Co-Director of the University Field School, Dr Elizabeth Greene, “it brings full circle the story that Vindolanda has to tell. The thousands of leather shoes from this site (over 6,000) give us a unique perspective on the people who lived at Vindolanda but this footprint highlights even more that archaeology has the potential to illuminate the lives of otherwise voiceless individuals from antiquity”.


During their visit last year the Field School took part in the excavation of a tilery at the site and Dr Alexander Meyer who brings the Field School to Vindolanda noted that the date of this tile is contemporary with that of the kiln site. “Vindolanda is a fascinating place, and we are very fortunate to be able to bring our students here so that they can play their part in piecing the jigsaw of the past back together and further the understanding of an ancient civilisation on this northern outpost”. Dr Meyer went on to say “I imagine the boy or girl who stepped in this newly produced tile was in more than a little trouble”.

The excavations at Vindolanda continue until 25th September and the footprint is one of many great discoveries from the site already this year.  Weekly highlights from the digs are posted on the official Facebook and Twitter pages of the Vindolanda Trust so enabling more people to look at the latest finds.  Once the tile has been conserved and researched it will go on public display within the Vindolanda museum, much to the delight of student Mel who said “finding something which would be considered special enough to go on display in the Vindolanda museum with all the other amazing artefacts was one of the ambitions of the Field School, we are all absolutely thrilled”.


Link to pdf of press release -   Press release - Foot in the Tile

Photos: Jpegs available of:

  • Mel Benard with tile
  • People excavating at Vindolanda
  • Vindolanda Aerial View


For further information please contact:

Sonya Galloway,

 The Vindolanda Trust, 01434 344277

Follow us on twitter: @VindolandaTrust

Follow us on Facebook @thevindolandatrust


The Vindolanda Trust

The Vindolanda Trust is an independent archaeological charitable trust, founded in 1970. The Vindolanda Trust does not receive any annual funding and relies on the visitors to both Roman man Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum to fund its archaeological, conservation and education work.

Roman Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum are both situated in the heart of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, Roman Vindolanda is just to the north of the village of Bardon Mill and the Roman Army Museum is next to the village of Greenhead.

Roman Vindolanda is regarded as the most exciting archaeological site in Europe with its wealth of archaeological remains and ongoing excavations. Vindolanda is home to the world famous Vindolanda Writing Tablets, voted as Britain’s top archaeological treasure by the British Museum, these thin hand written wooden notes have revealed an astonishing amount of first-hand information from the people who lived at this site 2000 years ago.

The Vindolanda Field School – University Western Ontario Canada

The Vindolanda Field School is a 5 week summer programme offered through the Department of Classical Studies at Western, with Dr Elizabeth Greene and Dr Alexander Meyer, supported by the Vindolanda Trust. The programme gives students in-depth field training as well as post-excavations work and archaeological drawing and recording.  Students record their experiences during the Field School at the following blog site.


Dr Beth Greene:

Alexander Meyer:

Bespoke toilet seat company pledges funds towards preservation of ancient loo seat.

Vindolanda Trust - Tuesday, October 07, 2014

As world-wide interest in the discovery of an ancient toilet seat in Northumberland continues a bespoke toilet seat manufacturer Tosca & Willoughby based in Oxfordshire have stepped forward and pledged a cash sum towards its preservation.  James Williams, Director of Tosca & Willoughby said ‘we are absolutely fascinated by the discovery of a perfectly preserved ancient loo seat, as our own seats are handcrafted we admire the Roman craftsmanship which in this case has certainly stood the test of time’. 

Mr Williams approached the Vindolanda Trust to help support the conservation of this seat when discovering the Vindolanda Trust was funded by visitors to the site.  Mr Williams went on to say ‘we realise our donation is a drop in the ocean when you consider the overall cost of excavation and the preservation of these fascinating artefacts but we hope our continued pledges will help even in a small way towards the work of the Trust’.  Tosca & Willoughby will be producing a special edition version of their most popular Thunderbox seat, with a percentage of the sales going to the Vindolanda Trust.


Patricia Birley, Director of the Vindolanda Trust commented ‘the work undertaken at Vindolanda which includes annual excavations, conservation and public display of artefacts can only happen with the support of the general public. The Trust is therefore delighted to receive a donation towards the cost of preserving our Roman toilet seat. The  Romans were well known for their fine craftsmanship and it is great to see these traditions continue in the U.K with companies like Tosca & Willoughby’. 






The discovery of such a personal everyday item from nearly 2000 years ago has intrigued people across the world and its legacy will now continue with a special edition ‘Vindolanda’ Thunderbox seat being launched by Tosca & Willoughby in time for the ancient loo seat going on public display.


 Link to Press release pdf



Photos available:  Roman Latrine (toilet) seat.

                             Thunderbox seat, Tosca & Willoughby

For further information please contact:

Sonya Galloway, The Vindolanda Trust, 01434 344277 

James Williams, Director, Tosca & Willoughby Ltd, 01844 353477


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