Monday, January 06, 2014


The process of wild cats turning into rodent-hunters, then pampered pets, and, eventually, enthusiastic Roomba riders, is poorly understood. But a new archaeological study suggests cats were domesticated much earlier, and over a much broader area, than previously believed.

Data on cat domestication is sparse. Remains of a wild cat were buried near a human on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus 9,500 years ago, but the oldest evidence of domestic cats comes from Egypt, 4,000 years ago. What cats were up to in the five millennia between the two discoveries is almost a complete mystery (though we suspect napping took up a good deal of that time).

In the new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers examined 5,300-year-old feline bones found in the excavated Neolithic village of Quanhucun, China. They determined that the animals were within the size range of modern domestic cats, rather than the larger Near Eastern wild cats from which domestic cats descended.

That discovery pushes back the earliest domestication of cats in China from approximately 2,000 years ago to over 5,000 years ago. This suggests that the cat-human relationship developed in the Near East and dispersed across Eurasia thousands of years earlier than previously believed.


Post a Comment

<< Home