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Origin Of 'Celtic Kitty' Brick Confirmed At Fort Vancouver

OPB | Feb. 25, 2013 6 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 25, 2013 2:03 p.m. | Portland

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Archaeologists at Fort Vancouver have learned a brick found on the site was made 2,000 years ago in the British Isles.

The brick was found some years ago by Karl Gurcke, a scholar with wide experience in the history of brick making. But it wasn’t until a scholar named Kristen Converse took the fragment for a neutron activation analysis that its full history unfolded. Converse confirmed the brick material originated in England, some 2,000 years ago.

Bob Cromwell is an archeologist at Fort Vancouver. He says it’s likely to have been brought over as ballast in a Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship. Its voyage, he says, tells a story of a time when the Western world was undergoing dramatic economic and political changes.

This brick fragment is one of the oldest artifacts in Fort Vancouver's collection, which numbers over a million items. Archaeologists surmise a cat walked on it while wet 2,000 years ago.

This brick fragment is one of the oldest artifacts in Fort Vancouver's collection, which numbers over a million items. Archaeologists surmise a cat walked on it while wet 2,000 years ago.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

“This brick,” Cromwell says, “was made under the Roman Empire, and arrived at its final destination under the auspices of the English Empire.”

Cromwell adds the fragment also shows what doesn’t change over 2,000 years. One corner is marked with a pair of paw prints.

Archaeologists surmise the brick was recently poured and sitting in a mold when a cat came by, and did what their kind have done since the dawn of time: walked where humans didn’t necessarily want them to be.

On the Web

The Atlantic: 1 Kitty, 2 Empires, 2,000 Years: World History Told Through a Brick

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