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
An extremely traditional Mesoamerican foodstuff, tamales have been cooked since at least 1500 BCE. Some evidence actually points to as long ago as 8000 BCE! The word itself is derived from the Nahuatl word for “wrapped food” (tamalii), and the correct singular form is tamal. But tamales are much, much older than the Aztec name we call them.
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.
It may not look like much, but this 6,100-year-old pottery sherd and the ancient leftovers stuck on it are actually an archaeological treasure! Researchers at the University of York analyzed burnt food remains from clay cooking pots, like this one, that were found in Neolithic dwellings in Denmark and Germany. On the clay, along with deer fats or traces of fish, they found the distinct remains of ground-up garlic mustard seeds.
While cumin, coriander, capers, basil, poppy and dill have been collected at other sites in southern Europe, the Middle East and India -- and some of those sites have been older than 6,100 years -- they may have been around for medicinal or even decorative purposes. These pots in Denmark and Germany are the first clear-cut evidence of spices being used with food, for food. Since no whole seeds were found, the Neolithic communities probably used well-ground seeds rather than whole ones in their cooking. One of the researchers tried re-creating the basic garlic mustard seed recipe. She reported it was pretty good, and tasted a lot like the mustard seed used by modern chefs!
Rice May Have Been Domesticated -- Separately -- In South America
Rice was domesticated in South America’s wetlands at least 4,000 years ago, according to a report in Science Magazine. Archaeobotanist José Iriarte examined a collection of rice phytoliths, or bits of silica made by plant cells, from Monte Castelo, an archaeological site in Brazil’s southwestern Amazon basin inhabited for more than 9,000 years. The study suggests that as the rice grains grown by the people living at Monte Castelo increased in size over time. Suggesting people were selectively growing larger and larger rice. Grown at lake edges and river edges, the crop would have ripened during the flooding season, when other food sources might be scarce.
If this truly was a rice domestication, that means South America joins Asia and Africa as an independent inventor of domesticated rice. Rice is thought to have been domesticated in Asia some 11,000 years ago, and in West Africa about 2,000 years ago.
This odd-looking ancient figure was discovered in the grave of King K'utz Chman, a priest who is believed to have reigned around 700 BCE, in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. In K'utz Chman's tomb, archaeologists found several jade jewels, jade beans, pots, ceramic dolls and this unusual necklace. The pendant appears to be carved in the shape of a vulture's head - a symbol that represented fearlessness of death, and so power and high economic status to the Maya.
A 3,200-year-old stone slab with an inscription that tells of a Trojan prince and may refer to the mysterious Sea People has been deciphered, archaeologists recently announced. The stone inscription, which was 95 feet (29 meters) long, describes the rise of a powerful kingdom called Mira, which launched a military campaign led by a prince named Muksus from Troy. The inscription is written in an ancient language called Luwian that just a few scholars, no more than 20 by some estimates, can read today. If the inscription is authentic, it shines light on a period when a confederation of people that modern-day scholars sometimes call the Sea People destroyed cities and civilizations across the Middle East. The kingdom of Mira, which engaged in this military campaign, was apparently part of this Sea People confederation since it participated in attacks like the one described on the stone.
The inscription tells of how King Kupantakuruntas ruled a kingdom called Mira that was located in what is now western Turkey. Mira controlled Troy (also in Turkey), according to the inscription, which additionally described Trojan prince Muksus leading a naval expedition that succeeded in conquering Ashkelon, located in modern-day Israel, and constructing a fortress there.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Fiji was settled in three waves of immigration between 1230 BCE-860 BCE by early Polynesian peoples. Cannibalism came soon after: estimates say that cannibalism on Fiji started around 400 BCE. In fact, Ratu Udre Udre, a Fijian war chief, is the most prolific cannibal in history. He is reported to have eaten between 872 and 999 people!
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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!