narrowed the date of cat domestication to 5,300 years ago. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Before this, estimates have ranged from "as far back as 9,500 years ago (based on wildcat remains buried near human remains on Cyprus) to 4,000 years ago (when domesticated cats first began appearing in Egyptian art) to as recently as 2,300 years ago, based on DNA evidence and archaeological digs."
According to the article, "The threshold of all domestication is traditionally thought of as the point at which a human-animal relationship becomes what’s known as commensal — when the animal begins eating from the human-food supply and the humans know it and permit it. Rodents and crop-scavenging crows do not have a commensal relationship with us, even though they eat themselves full at our table. House pets and farm animals do.
The investigators in the current study, led by Yaowu Hu, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, excavated a site in Shaanxi, China, where an agricultural village was known to have stood less than 6,000 years ago. The scientists unearthed cat skeletons buried within the boundaries of the village that were physically similar to wildcats but smaller — well within the range of domesticated cats. As with many such skeletal troves, it was not easy to determine exactly how many individuals contributed to the tangle of bones, but the investigators were certain of at least two. Carbon dating gave a slightly different age estimate for both, which averaged out to 5,300 years.
The key to determining what the animals ate and whether that indicated domestication was to analyze the bones in a different way — this time using isotope analysis to detect the particular mix of minerals and other nutrients that went into building the skeleton in the first place. One elemental profile would indicate a meat-heavy diet; another plant- or grain-based; another, different combinations of all of them."
Read more: Earliest Cat Domestication Traced to China 5,300 Years Ago | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2013/12/17/cats-have-been-crashing-on-our-couch-for-5300-years/#ixzz2nps89OJe