cats and cathars

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cats and cathars

Message  Philippe-Henri le Jeu 8 Déc - 13:24

The French archaeological magazine «Cahiers Science & Vie I subscribed to published an interesting article this month on the history of CATS. I translated the main passages into English :

«Sung by poets, intimate friend of witches, familiar household pet, the black cat haunts our collective memory. Today, up to 13 millions of those little felines are living quietly in French families. Yet, we know very little about their domestication. Have they actually been domesticated ?

[CATHARS, a Christian medieval sekt in Languedoc, which was eradicated by the Pope and by French kings and noblemen, owed their name to CATS. According to the Roman Church, Cathars were blamed for having intercourse with a black cat, the personification of the Devil. ─ Note by translator.]

Ancient Egyptians have for a long time been considered to be the first humans to domesticate the cat. Remains of cats, 6000 years old, were exhumated from the graveyard of the town notables in Hierakonpolis and we can see the cat’s graceful silhouette on paintings and scupltures from the 12th dynasty (2000 BC). This hypothesis, however, was invalidated in 2004 by the discovery on the island of Cyprus of the remains of a cat inside a human grave dug by 7,500 BC. The Cypriot cat is bigger than its Egyptian cousin and looks like a lynx (type of wild cat), but its presence in a human tomb suggests it was at least partially domesticated. We had, therefore, to look elsewhere on the continent for the first steps of the association between Man and Cat.

Flash-back : we are in the Neolithic (« New stone ») era, some 11000 years ago, somewhere in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ (an area that includes Mesopotamia; the Levant, the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt. The inhabitants of this area are polishing up a quite recent innovation which disrupts mankind’s history : agriculture.

[This region was known as being particularly fertile, contrasting sharply with surrounding desert-like lands. The fertility of the soil was due to advanced irrigation techniques, using fresh water from large rivers as Tigris, Euphrates and Nile. ─ Note by Translator]

For the first time, man is able to mass-produce his vegetable food (fruit, grain) and to store it in anticipation of food shortage due to bad crops. This providential food abundance arouses envy of RODENTS, which cheerfully start proliferating in grain stocks. This pullulation of rodents attracts large numbers of little felines. Now, geneticists have shown that our present-day domesticated house cat (felis catus) is descended from one single ancestor, the wild cat (felis silvestris lybica), which roamed around the Middle-East territories in the Neolithic era. Attracted by rodents and food leftovers they found in many human houses and settlements, the most docile house cats were likely to be tolerated by man for their quality as eminent rats and mice hunters. Yet, they have probably never been fully domesticated. Despite their partial domestication, they have not lost their inborn sense of independance. (This appears clearly in their behaviour compared with dogs, which are profoundly obedient. You can easily dress a dog ; impossible to dress a cat.).

Refined DNA studies have recently shown that the migration of cats from East to West occurred in two waves :

WAVE 1

MIDDLE-EAST 10,000 BC─ Merging from the Middle-East, the Ferile Crescent and the first cities, cats colonize the whole Mediterranean area

CYPRUS 7,500 BC Remains of men and cats are found together in the same grave.

ISRAEL 7,000 BC ─ Cat teeth and bones are found in the ancient city of Jericho.

SOUTH-EAST EUROPE 4,400 BC ─ There were cats in Bulgary

EGYPT 3,700 BC ─ Skeletons of cats are found in a predynastic cemetery at Hierakonpolis.

CHINA 3rd millennium BC ─ the local cat species F. bengalensis is superseded by F. silvestris.

INDUS VALLEY 2nd millennium BC ─ Cat teeth found in Harappa (Pakistan) seem to bear witness of an independant form of domestication.

BANKS OF THE RED SEA 800-400 BC Cat remains were discovered in the Roman harbour of Berenice (Egypt)

WAVE 2

EGYPT 18th century BC

GREECE 6th century BC ─ Traces of cats have been found in Grece.

NORTHERN ALPS 1st century BC ─ the cat is present after the Roman conquest.

NORTHERN EUROPE 700-1100 AD ─ The cat enters this territory by maritime ways.

ASIA-EUROPE ─ As from the 1st century AD the cat follows commercial routes. Cat populations go on crossbreeding.

NORTHERN AMERICA ─ 1620 The «Mayflower» unloads cats in Massachussetts.

AUSTRALIA, TASMANIA ─ 17th century. European colonization and shipwrecks introduce cats in this territory.

HAWAI ─ 18th century. The cat arrives by ships sailing from North-American ports to Sout-East Asian ports.

SOUTH-EAST ASIA ─ As from 1850 Malaysian workers introduce cats.

Thus, two successive waves of Egyptian cats have invaded Eurasia and Africa, despite a ban by Egypt on trade in cats, which were considered as sacred. This way, the felines swarmed through the Mediterranean to Bulgary, Turkey etc. until Northern Germany. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the cat achieves its world conquest on the caravels of Christopher Columbus and his successors.

The history of our domesticated house cat is still not clarified entirely. In China, for exemple, there is another feline species called «leopard cat» (Prionailurus bengalensis) which might have been domesticated as early as in the 4th millennium BC.

Anyway, it’s a fact that the popularity of our European feline pet goes far back in time, to the Neolithic period, when man, as a nomadic hunter-gatherer, suddenly became sedentary and invented AGRICULTURE.»

Philippe-Henri


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Re: cats and cathars

Message  MurielB le Jeu 8 Déc - 22:25

Thanks Henry for translating all that for us The dog was the first domesticant and was established across Eurasia before the end of the Late Pleistocene era, well before cultivation and before the domestication of other animals. I have read that in the very interesting book I am reading at the moment "sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari . As it comes from the wild cat, I see that the cat can't be domesticated of course.

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CATS AND CATHARS

Message  Philippe-Henri le Ven 9 Déc - 8:42

To Muriel who wrote: "The dog was the first domesticant and was established across Eurasia before the end of the Late Pleistocene era, well before cultivation and before the domestication of other animals."

It's quite plausible that dogs were domesticated much earlier than cats, but apparently not for the same reason. Dogs were descended from WOLVES, which were big animals that threatened man's life. Cats, however, were small animals that were descended from much smaller wild cats and lynxes. They hunted small preys, such as rodents, which menaced men's food stocks (mainly cereals). Mice and rats were enemies of both men and cats. That's why cats were tolerated in human environments. Hence the link between CATS and AGRICULTURE. Similarly, the sudden disappearance of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, left room for smaller primates, such as apes, our ancestors, to develop and even to swarm over the whole globe. Hence the link between MEN and DINOSAURS. This is the Law of Nature.

Henri


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Re: cats and cathars

Message  MurielB le Ven 9 Déc - 22:29

Henri we can come to the conclusion that the cat is a very strange animal. Is it diabolic ? I don't know. Considered sacred or close friend of the witch he has certainly always haunted our collective memory. I agree with you.

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