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Dig discovery is oldest 'pet cat'
BBC ^ | Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK | By Paul Rincon

Posted on 04/09/2004 5:34:44 AM PDT by vannrox

The oldest known evidence of people keeping cats as pets may have been discovered by archaeologists.

The discovery of a cat buried with what could be its owner in a Neolithic grave on Cyprus suggests domestication of cats had begun 9,500 years ago.

It was thought the Egyptians were first to domesticate cats, with the earliest evidence dating to 2,000-1,900 BC.



French researchers writing in Science magazine show that the process actually began much earlier than that.

The evidence comes from the Neolithic, or late stone age, village of Shillourokambos on Cyprus, which was inhabited from the 9th to the 8th millennia BC.

Cat culture

"The cat we found in the grave may have been pre-domesticated - something in between savage and domestic. Alternatively, it's possible it was really domestic," Professor Jean Guilaine of the CNRS Centre d'Anthropologie in Toulouse, France told BBC News Online.



The cat (centre bottom) was killed to be buried together with its "master"

"We have this situation of the person and the cat. This same situation of men and dogs are known much earlier from the Natufian culture of Israel which dates to 12-11,000 BC."

The complete cat skeleton was found about 40 cm from a human burial. The similar states of preservation and positions of the burials in the ground suggest the person and the cat were buried together.

The person, who is about 30 years of age, but of unknown sex, was buried with offerings such as polished stone, axes, flint tools and ochre pigment.

Based on this the researchers argue that the person was of high status and may have had a special relationship with cats. Cats might have had religious as well as material significance to the stone age Cypriots, the French archaeologists add.

'Religious animal'

"It's difficult to say the cat was a religious animal but it probably played a role in the symbolic and imaginative world of these people," Prof Guilaine explained.

During the Neolithic, when agriculture was beginning to spread from the Near East, grain storage would have attracted large mice populations. So cats may have been encouraged to settle in villages to control the mice.

Shillourokambos was a thriving village in the late stone age

"If this hypothesis is true, cats could have been attracted into the villages as early as there were mice. These mice in the Near East were present as early as 12,000 years ago," co-author Dr Jean-Denis Vigne of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

It seems the eight-month-old cat in the Cypriot burial was killed in order to be buried with the person. The skeleton shows no signs of butchering, suggesting that it was treated as an individual in death.

But burnt cat bones from a similar period at the site, attest to the fact that humans did eat the animals on certain occasions.

The cat specimen is large and best resembles the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), rather than present-day domestic cats.

There are no native feline species on Cyprus, so the authors presume any cats must have been introduced by humans.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancient; animal; bones; cat; catfood; dig; discovery; dog; explore; feline; found; godsgravesglyphs; history; mankind; mice; natufian; old; past; pet; rats; wonder
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Cat lover bump
1 posted on 04/09/2004 5:34:45 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: vannrox
I hope they reburied it.
2 posted on 04/09/2004 5:36:31 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (I have joined the "More Than a Dollar Per Day Donor Club.")
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3 posted on 04/09/2004 5:36:52 AM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: vannrox
"It's difficult to say the cat was a religious animal but it probably played a role in the symbolic and imaginative world of these people," Prof Guilaine explained.

Well it's always difficult to know a cat's psyche but the proximity of human bones to the cat's suggests that the cat wished to have his human near him in some sort of after life. But it certainly was a long process introducing humans to the concept of agriculture and food storage in order to have mice. So its difficult to determine if there was some sort of "food god" ideation on the cats' part. Interesting.

4 posted on 04/09/2004 6:32:00 AM PDT by Kay Syrah (nice finish)
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To: vannrox; abner
...21st Century Cats...Here kitty, kitty


5 posted on 04/09/2004 6:37:21 AM PDT by NautiNurse (Missing Iraqi botulinum toxin? Look at John Kerry's face)
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To: vannrox
The discovery of a cat buried with what could be its owner in a Neolithic grave on Cyprus suggests domestication of cats had begun 9,500 years ago.

Yeah, and the domestication process is still ongoing.

6 posted on 04/09/2004 6:42:10 AM PDT by Modernman (Work is the curse of the drinking classes. -Oscar Wilde)
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To: Modernman
Yeah, and the domestication process is still ongoing

Yep, those cats will have us eating out of their paws before long.

7 posted on 04/09/2004 7:14:11 AM PDT by NautiNurse (Missing Iraqi botulinum toxin? Look at John Kerry's face)
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To: NautiNurse
They've come a long way baby!
8 posted on 04/09/2004 7:21:08 AM PDT by abner (FREE THE MIRANDA MEMOS! http://www.intelmemo.com or http://www.wintersoldier.com)
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To: vannrox
Some FReeper on another thread once mused that if his dog suddenly became 800 pounds that he'd still be his dog's best friend. If his cat became 800 pounds, he'd be lunch. I do love my cats, tho.

Lando

9 posted on 04/09/2004 7:25:20 AM PDT by Lando Lincoln (GWB in 2004)
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To: vannrox
Poor cat didn't get all his nine lives.
10 posted on 04/09/2004 7:35:19 AM PDT by mtbopfuyn
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To: vannrox
Good grief, enough with every find being of religious significance. Odds are the guy liked his cat and instead of letting the cat live out it's life the family killed it and buried it with gramps.
11 posted on 04/09/2004 7:40:07 AM PDT by mtbopfuyn
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To: Kay Syrah
Perfect.
12 posted on 04/09/2004 7:46:14 AM PDT by Inyo-Mono (Proud member of P.O.O.P., People Offended by Offended People.)
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To: mtbopfuyn; Conspiracy Guy
>I hope they reburied it
>Poor cat didn't get all his nine lives


CopyCat, the First Cloned Pet Animal
Texas A&M University
College of Vet Medicine
Heck, they can clone cats!
Let's give this one one more life
and see how it looked . . .

13 posted on 04/09/2004 7:51:55 AM PDT by theFIRMbss
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To: Modernman
Yeah, and the domestication process is still ongoing.

Kinda brings into question the evolution theory. You would think that in all these thousands of years cats would have a little better opinion of us. (G)

14 posted on 04/09/2004 8:10:10 AM PDT by Vinnie
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To: Vinnie
Kinda brings into question the evolution theory. You would think that in all these thousands of years cats would have a little better opinion of us. (G)

Why would they? We're a bunch of suckers. We feed them, groom them, clean their crap and they won't even play fetch (actually, my cat plays fetch) with us but we still keep them around.

Kinda makes you wonder: which species is the pet: humans or cats?

15 posted on 04/09/2004 8:15:23 AM PDT by Modernman (Work is the curse of the drinking classes. -Oscar Wilde)
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To: Modernman
Why would they? We're a bunch of suckers. We feed them, groom them, clean their crap and they won't even play fetch (actually, my cat plays fetch) with us but we still keep them around.

Consider this, though - they won't make a mess on the floor unless they are very upset about something, they will only eat until they are full, and they keep the yard free of vermin (of course they will somethimes try to bring it inside).

On the other hand, my sister's Lab was sick for a week after eating part of a deer carcas discarded by a hunter. He will also occasionally eat his own poop.

16 posted on 04/09/2004 8:23:49 AM PDT by Hacksaw (theocratic paleoconistic Confederate flag waving loyalty oath supporter)
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To: Hacksaw
Consider this, though - they won't make a mess on the floor unless they are very upset about something, they will only eat until they are full, and they keep the yard free of vermin (of course they will somethimes try to bring it inside).

I used to be a dog person until my fiance and I adopted her sister's Maine Coon (20lbs, looks like a bobcat). I was stunned by how smart the little goobers are. A little too smart, sometimes. Our cat has figured out how to open doors using the doorhandles (probably couldn't do it if we had doorknobs). Opening and closing cupboards is no problem. Plus, he can tell the difference between a tuna can and a can of soup.

We ended up adopting a kitten to keep him occupied while we were out of the house during the day. She's some type of mix- looks like a little gray cheetah. If anything, she's even smarter than her big brother.

17 posted on 04/09/2004 8:32:22 AM PDT by Modernman (Work is the curse of the drinking classes. -Oscar Wilde)
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To: Modernman
I used to be a dog person until my fiance and I adopted her sister's Maine Coon (20lbs, looks like a bobcat). I was stunned by how smart the little goobers are. A little too smart, sometimes. Our cat has figured out how to open doors using the doorhandles (probably couldn't do it if we had doorknobs). Opening and closing cupboards is no problem. Plus, he can tell the difference between a tuna can and a can of soup.

Yes, one of mine learned that if he jumps against the storm door long enough, it will open. I also can not open tuna in the house. It drives them nuts - almost like a drug.

18 posted on 04/09/2004 8:36:57 AM PDT by Hacksaw (theocratic paleoconistic Confederate flag waving loyalty oath supporter)
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To: vannrox
Is the phiotograph in the article that of an African wildcat?
19 posted on 04/09/2004 8:54:20 AM PDT by squarebarb
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To: Hacksaw
MY PETEY looks just like the cat depicted, I just finshed feeding my old cat[ MRS KITTY} her daily marshmellow they are so good for me the day would be awful boring without them ,like having children all over again without the heartbreak.
20 posted on 04/09/2004 8:58:14 AM PDT by douglas1 (i CANNOT IMAGINE)
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