Scientists have proved that cats were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians

© Public DomainЕгипетская statue of a sitting catScientists have proved that cats were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians© Public Domain

Paleogenetic extracted and decoded the DNA of the oldest remains of domestic cats on Earth and came to the conclusion that they were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians and the people of the Middle East about 9 thousand years ago, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

«It is not clear whether the Egyptian domestic cats are descendants of animals imported from the Middle East, or they were domesticated independently here. Future excavations, we hope, will give us the answer to this question,» said Claudio Ottone (Claudio Ottoni) from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Today, paleontologists and historians believe, based on the fossil record and genomic research that domesticated cats about 10 thousand years ago. Their ancestors served as Libyan wild cats (Felis silvestris lybica), which still can be found in all corners of Africa. Exactly how cats become «man’s best friend», scientists do not yet know – there is evidence that they were domesticated in southwest Asia and in Ancient Egypt.

How to tell paleogenetic, the problem is that today there are five subspecies of wild cats (Felis silvestris) living in different parts of the Old world, almost indistinguishable from each other from the point of view of anatomy, but has a very different coloration and behavior. For this reason, scientists argue long enough about how looked the first domestic cats and how their appearance could change as the «conquest» of humanity.

Ottoni and his colleagues found new arguments in favor of the «middle East» hypothesis of domestication of the ancestors of modern cats, «when he raised» DNA is one of the oldest cats of the Earth, lived in different parts of Africa, Europe and Asia in the last nine thousand years.

In total, scientists were able to reconstruct the genomes of about two hundred ancient Pets, finding traces of DNA in the skin and fur of mummified cats from ancient Egypt and the bones of their relatives from the caves of Europe and the first cities in the fertile Crescent of the Levant and Mesopotamia.

Comparing sets of mutations in the DNA of the ancient cats, their modern descendants and their wild relatives, Attori article came to the conclusion that the ancestors of modern «murok» are indeed the Libyan wild cat, which very gradually became best friends the first farmers of Egypt and the Levant and Anatolia, about 9 thousand years ago.

Pet strategic purpose

From there, these cats, as shown by genetic evidence, began to spread through Europe, the rest of the Middle East and Africa, approximately 6.5 thousand years ago. They spread almost all over the continent, as scientists assume, moving along with the migrant farmers displaced at the time the tribes of hunter-gatherers.

Interestingly, these ancient cats were not ancestors of modern Pets and looked a bit different – none of them were «spotted» and «monochrome» rocks. Modern cat, as found Ottoni and his colleagues belong to a different genetic line – they are relatives of a separate group of ancient Egyptian cats, whose mummies are usually found in the tombs of the New Kingdom era.

These cats were so valuable to the pharaohs that their sale to foreigners was forbidden around 1700 BC. Despite this prohibition, this breed of cats still spread quickly throughout Europe, reaching Scandinavia and displacing their relatives or ancestors to the middle of the first Millennium BC.

So the speed of propagation of these cats, as noted by genetics, suggests that they had some very interesting human traits that distinguish them from first generation Pets. Scientists believe that these cats might have a more docile and friendly nature that could force their owners to actively breed and distribute them.

Interestingly, the modern spotted cats appeared recently, in the late middle ages. The first carriers of these genes appeared again in the Middle East and spread to Europe and Africa by the beginning of the 18th century. This, according to Ottoni, proves that cats are almost always appreciated a person not because of their aesthetic beauty, but because they helped farmers to protect crops from rodents.

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