evidence for first pet cats discovered

Researchers believe they have found the remains of the earliest known pet cat. Jean-Denis Vigne of the CNRS-Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris and colleagues report in the April 9 Science that they have discovered a human and a cat buried in close proximity in a Stone Age village on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The find demonstrates “that a close relation had developed by 9,500 years ago” between human and feline, thousands of years before the ancient Egyptians were generally believed to have domesticated the cat. The human grave contained rich offerings of polished stones, axes, and flint tools, and lay nearby a small pit with 24 sea shells. The cat was buried just 16 inches away from the human. The 8-month-old animal’s skeleton was intact and examination showed that the small grave had been dug deliberately. The authors write, “The burial of a complete cat without any butchering reminds us of human burials and emphasizes the animal as an individual.” Vigne added in a press release, “The association of this burial with both the sea shells and the cat grave strengthens the idea of a special burial indicating a strong relationship between cats and human beings. Possibly tamed cats were devoted to special activities or special human individuals in the village.”

This news brief appeared in the Discoveries column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 4/13/2004.
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