A Moment of Science

Archaeologists Find Evidence Of A Surprising Royal Pet

Is it a tiger? An exotic monkey? A beautiful songbird? Not so fast... This pet is not exactly what you'd expect to find in an English castle.

pet_tortoise

Photo: Dave Morris (flickr)

Frog princes, maybe, but tales of royal pet tortoises are a little harder to come by.

Our tale begins in 19th century England, on a sacred patch of ground behind the walls of Stafford Castle: the royal pet cemetery. On this somber day, we bury yet another dearly beloved family companion.

Before, only witches and other suspicious characters would let creatures and critters disrupt the sanctity of their homes. However, in the 17th century, the attitudes of the British people towards animals began to change. By the late 1800s, domestic pets had become all the rage! Some favorites included cats, dogs… and tortoises?

British archaeologists found a 130-year-old bone buried in the royal pet cemetery, providing evidence for what appears to be Britain’s earliest domesticated tortoise.

The fact that these animals were let into the home and their remains were respectfully buried, indicates a major cultural shift in people’s relationship with the animals they kept.

Read More:

  • Earliest Evidence of Pet Tortoise in Britain (BBCNews)
  • Earliest Archaeological Evidence of Pet Tortoises Discovered (ScienceDaily)

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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