Digs at the site of Shillourokambos, led by Jean Guilaine under the direction of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus and the French School of Athens, have recently unearthed a burial site in which a cat and a human are associated. It dates from 7,500 to 7,000 B.C. Not only is it older by almost one thousand years than the first evidence of the presence of the cat in Cyprus, but it leaves no doubt as to the existence of a strong association between humans and cats as of that time, at least at the symbolic level. The cat buried with the human was approximately eight months old and had almost reached its adult size. The morphology of the skeleton suggests that it was a big cat, similar to wild cats found in the Near East today. The morphological modifications of the skeleton associated with domestication are not yet visible, justifying the use of the term “tamed”, rather than “domesticated”.

“This particular relationship between humans and cats could have begun at the very beginning of agriculture, when cats were attracted into the villages because mice came to eat the stored grain”, explains Jean-Denis Vigne.

Archaeozoologists generally use the word domestication when they have good evidence for morphological modifications such as the decrease of the general size or the shortening of the face and tooth raw. However, morphological modifications may not appear for some considerable time after the original association with man. We use the term ‘taming’ for the early history of the domestic cat when no morphological modification is visible. In addition this term, which has also been used by Malek for the same stage of domestication, fits well the status of cat as an ‘exploiting captive’. Cultural situation of Shillourokambos. The cultural characters of the late 9th millennium Shillourokambos archaeological assemblages are very similar to those of the mainland for the same period. Indeed, it has now been established that Cyprus was settled by Neolithic farmers from the continent who brought with them both crops and herds.

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