Cats migrated to Europe 7,000 years earlier than previously thought

The animals were imperfect,

long tail,

unlucky in their heads.

little by little they

get together,

making a landscape,

acquiring spots, grace, flight.

The cat,

just the cat

appeared full and proud:

was born completely finished,

walking alone and knowing what he wanted.

– Pablo Neruda, excerpt from ode to the cat

We agree with the Nobel Prize-winning poet and cat lover, Pablo Neruda:

Those of us who care for cats choose to believe that we are “the owner, owner, uncle of a cat, companion, colleague, disciple or friend of (our) cat”, when in reality they are mysterious beasts, much more independent. than the sociable and inquisitive canine Neruda immortalized in Oda al perro.

We can give names and social media accounts to the cats we know, channel them on the steps of the Met Gala, attach GPS trackers to their necks, give them the pride of placing them in books to children and Adultsand do our best to get into their headsbut what do we really know about them?

We even got his story wrong.

Common knowledge once held that cats arrived in northern Europe from the Mediterranean aboard Roman, and eventually Viking, ships sometime between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE, but it turns out we were millennia wrong.

In 2016, a team of researchers collaborating on the Five thousand years of history of domestic cats in Central Europe The project confirmed the presence of domestic cats during Roman times in the area that is now northern Poland, using a combination of zooarchaeology, genetics, and absolute dating.

More recently, the team turned their attention to Felis bones found in southern Poland and Serbia, determining those found in the Jasna Strzegowska Cave be pre-Neolithic (5990-5760 BC), while Serbian kittens come from the Mesolithic-Neolithic era (6220-5730 BC).

In addition to clarifying our understanding of how the ancestors of our domestic cats got to Central Europe from Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, the project seeks to “identify phenotypic characteristics related to domestication, such as physical appearance, including body size and coat color; behavior, eg reduced aggression; and possible physiological adaptations to digest anthropogenic food.”

As for non-anthropogenic foods, a rebound in the Late Neolithic Eastern European house mouse population exhibits an ingenious overlap with the newly attached dates of these ancient cat bones, although Dr. danijela popovicwho oversaw the paleogenetics for the project, reports that the arrival of cats in Europe preceded that of the first farmers:

These cats were probably still wild animals that naturally colonized Central Europe.

We’re willing to believe that they set up a bulkhead, then waited until humans showed up before implementing the next phase of their plan: self-domestication.

Read the “History of the Domestic Cat in Central Europe” from the research team here.

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through great thought

ayun hallidayhuman servant of two felines Mailroom Böyz, is the chief primatologist of The Inky East Village magazine and author, most recently, of Creative, not famous: the small potato manifesto and Creative Not Famous Activity Book. follow her @AyunHalliday.