When Did Cats Become Companion Animals?

Is that a mouse? Image source: morgueFile.

I am unabashedly a cat person, heavily influenced, I suspect, by the ever-fluctuating population of cats that roamed the family farm. Most of these outdoor cats were skittish around humans, but sometimes there were friendly female cats with a litter of kittens that were fun to chase, pick up and stroke. While the farm’s clowder of cats would eagerly await table scraps my mom would put out in the evening, there was plenty of opportunity for the felines to hunt vermin around the farm. It is this function—rodent control—that may be the reason that many of us share our homes with cats. One hypothesis to explain the association between cats and humans is rodents were stealing from human grain stores and cats could control rodent populations. However, there was not much data to confirm this hypothesis. Recent archeological evidence from China seems to support this view of cat domestication as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Continue reading

  

Autopsy Results of a 5,300-year-old Murder in the Italian Alps

The Italian AlpsA Neolithic man who died a violent death high in the Ötztal Alps has been thawed for the first time in 5,300 years, and his autopsy is revealing new clues as to how he lived and died. The mummified body of the man, nicknamed Ötzi, was first discovered partially embedded in a glacier in September of 1991 by two German hikers, and due to the initial assumption that he was a modern corpse, was hastily extracted from the ice by Austrian authorities and taken to a morgue in Innsbruck. Only then did scientists learn Ötzi’s true age and historical significance as the oldest natural European mummy from the Copper Age.
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