Geneticists investigating the ancient domestication of cats happened to find that ancient cats had stripes -- but no spots. A specific gene is responsible for spotted fur, and it is absent in ancient cats. How fur patterns relate to when cats began to live with humans, I do not know. Anyways, the researchers' findings were confirmed by Egyptian murals, which only show striped cats. The gene causing blotched or spotted coats only began to appear in Europe during the Middle Ages.
The mosaic above comes from the House of the Faun, in Pompeii, during the early Roman Empire. Roman cats, which were descended from Egyptian cats, were striped too.
Source: National Geographic History, November/December 2017. "Finicky Felines Take Their Time with Domestication." Pp. 4 - 5
The forest in Korup National Park, in Cameroon, is Africa's oldest remaining forest at over 60 million years old! It is home to over 1,000 known species of plants. And if you're not into nature, there are over 90 plants with known medicinal value in Korup, and more that scientists are currently exploring -- including one, Ancistrocladus korupensis, which may be able to fight HIV!
Archaeologists have known that cats and humans have had a relationship that goes back a long ways -- eight to ten thousand years, to give numbers. That's about when agriculture first appeared in the Fertile Crescent. However, actually domestication of cats took longer. And that's just what the cats wanted.
A new study by the University of Leuven and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences used DNA to look closely at cat domestication. They found that full domestication was slow. DNA samples from 200 cats dating across the past 9,000 years revealed modern domestic cats come from two lineages of Felis silvestris lybica, a subspecies of wildcat. The first lineage was an Asian population, which likely were mousers for Fertile Crescent granaries. These cats traveled with humans into Europe as early as 4,400 BCE.
The second feline lineage was traced back to ancient Egypt. The cat-worshippers. This lineage came to Europe around 1,500 BCE. When the Asian and the African lineages met, they began to mix, and develop into the domestic cat we would recognize today.
The Most Interesting Frenchwoman You've Never Heard Of
Napoleon has just conquered Egypt from the British in early 1798, and dealt with the ensuing unrest. By November 30 Cairo had sufficiently returned to normality to allow Napoleon to open the Tivoli pleasure gardens, where he noticed an ‘exceedingly pretty and lively young woman’ called Pauline Fourès, the twenty-year-old wife of a lieutenant in the 22nd Chasseurs, Jean-Noël Fourès.
If the beautiful round face and long blonde hair described by her contemporaries are indeed accurate, Lieutenant Fourès was unwise to have brought his wife on campaign. It was six months since Napoleon had discovered Josephine’s infidelity and within days of his first spotting Pauline they were having an affair. Their dalliance was to take on the aspect of a comic opera when Napoleon sent Lieutenant Fourès off with allegedly important despatches for Paris, generally a three-month round trip, only for his ship to be intercepted by the frigate HMS Lion the very next day. Instead of being interned by the British, Fourès was sent back to Alexandria, as was sometimes the custom with military minnows. He therefore reappeared in Cairo ten weeks before he was expected, to find his wife installed in the grounds of Napoleon’s Elfey Bey palace and nicknamed ‘Cleopatra’.
According to one version of the story, Fourès threw a carafe of water on her dress in the subsequent row, but another has him horsewhipping her, drawing blood. Whichever it was, they divorced and she thereafter became Napoleon’s maîtresse-en-titre in Cairo, acting as hostess at his dinners and sharing his carriage as they drove around the city and its environs. (The deeply chagrined Eugène was excused from duty on those occasions.)
The affair deflected charges of cuckoldry from Napoleon, which for a French general then was a far more serious accusation than adultery. When Napoleon left Egypt he passed Pauline on to Junot, who, when injured in a duel and invalided back to France, passed her on to Kléber.
Pauline Fourès later made a fortune in the Brazilian timber business, before coming back to Paris with her pet parrots and monkeys, wearing men’s clothing and smoking a pipe. She lived to be ninety.
Between 1896 and 1907, archaeologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt discovered an amazing treasure trove. But their treasure was words, not gold: over 500,000 papyri fragments, dating back around 1,800 years, so well-preserved that they are still readable to the naked eye. The fragments were uncovered in the ruins of Oxyrhynchus, a sizable ancient town in southern Egypt that flourished when the Roman Empire controlled Egypt. The town's arid conditions meant that the ordinary residents' papyri survived nearly 2 millennia. The papyri include Christian gospels, magical spells and even a contract to fix a wrestling match!
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!