Researchers recently reported that they have found the earliest archaeological evidence that a family in Britain, at a castle in Staffordshire, kept a tortoise as a pet.
The discovery dates back to the late 19th century and was reported in the journal Post Medieval Archaeology.
The researchers say that attitudes about keeping family pets “began to change.”
“A fondness for pets was more regularly expressed in literature,” the researchers wrote in their article.
There has been evidence that turtles and terrapins were kept in domestic situations in the 17th Century, but it was believed that these animals were used for food.
The discovery of the 130-year-old tortoise leg bone at Stafford Castle suggests that the castle’s caretakers kept this animal as a pet.
According to Dr. Richard Thomas of Leicester University, who lead the research, the keeping of pets had until then been considered “morally suspect.”
“If you go back to the medieval period you can see that attitudes to animals in general were very much constrained by religious doctrine,” he told BBC news.
“Man was given dominion over all animals, and where close relationships with animals are found, suspicion is aroused.”
“In witchcraft, for example, having a close animal companion is seen as very sinister and a sign of devilry.”
The discovery is seen as evidence that this was an era of the start of a social and cultural change.
It was then that ordinary people started to keep animals because they were fond of them and wanted them as family pets.
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