Friday, 30 September 2011

cat history

Traditionally, historians tended to think that ancient Egypt was the site of cat domestication, owing to the clear depictions of house cats in Egyptian paintings about 3,600 years old.However, in 2004, a Neolithic grave was excavated in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, that contained the skeletons, laid close to one another, of both a human and a cat. The grave is estimated to be 9,500 years old, pushing back the earliest known feline-human association significantly. The cat specimen is large and closely resembles the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), rather than present-day domestic cats. This discovery, combined with genetic studies, suggest that cats were probably domesticated in the Near East, in the Fertile Crescent around the time of the development of agriculture and then they were brought to Cyprus and Egypt.
In ancient Egypt cats were sacred animals, with Bast often depicted in cat form, sometimes taking on the warlike aspect of a lioness. The Romans are often credited with introducing the domestic cat from Egypt to Europe; in Roman Aquitaine, a 1st or 2nd century epitaph of a young girl holding a cat is one of two earliest depictions of the Roman domesticated cat. However, it is possible that cats were already kept in Europe prior to the Roman Empire, as they may have already been present in Britain in the late Iron Age. Domestic cats were spread throughout much of the rest of the world during the Age of Discovery, as they were carried on sailing ships to control shipboard rodents and as good-luck charms.