The earliest domestic cat on the Silk Road
journal contributionposted on 10.08.2020, 10:37 by AF Haruda, AR Ventresca Miller, JLA Paijmans, A Barlow, A Tazhekeyev, S Bilalov, Y Hesse, M Preick, T King, R Thomas, H Härke, I Arzhantseva
We present the earliest evidence for domestic cat (Felis catus L., 1758) from Kazakhstan, found as a well preserved skeleton with extensive osteological pathologies dating to 775–940 cal CE from the early medieval city of Dzhankent, Kazakhstan. This urban settlement was located on the intersection of the northern Silk Road route which linked the cities of Khorezm in the south to the trading settlements in the Volga region to the north and was known in the tenth century CE as the capital of the nomad Oghuz. The presence of this domestic cat, presented here as an osteobiography using a combination of zooarchaeological, genetic, and isotopic data, provides proxy evidence for a fundamental shift in the nature of human-animal relationships within a previously pastoral region. This illustrates the broader social, cultural, and economic changes occurring within the context of rapid urbanisation during the early medieval period along the Silk Road.