This two thousand year old stool was a common form of seating and they were often used for milking cows, sheep and goats.  The three legs stopped the stool from rocking on uneven floors. Milking took place from behind the animal into a shallow bowl.

Digging up memories - making connections

The Milking Stool?

 By Veryan Johnston (Trustee)

The seat of what would have been a three-legged stool, preserved by the anaerobic ground conditions, provides a very tangible link between life at Vindolanda during the Roman occupation and the present day. The design is very practical in that three legs provide a more stable seat than four on uneven ground and provide a comfortable, low level, perch for all sorts of activities.

The remains of the stool look to me like a milking stool, something that would be used on the farms around Vindolanda until the first half of the 20th century, before supermarkets had aisles full of dairy products and when many would still have a cow for milking.  Cattle would have been a valuable asset at Vindolanda providing not only milk and meat but also hides. 

From the fragments of a ceramic cheese press we know that cheese making took place at Vindolanda; goat’s or sheep’s milk could have been used though the stool looks quite large to be used to milk either of these animals.  The size of the seat (40cm x 25cm) raises some questions for me as my own three-legged stool is smaller (27cm x 17cm): was there a particular purpose for this stool that needed greater stability, was it used for long periods of time and need to be comfortable or did the owner of the stool have a large posterior?