An excavation along the former “Silk Road” in Northern Kazakhstan revealed a full skeleton of a domestic cat. According to the findings by an international research team consisting of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Korkyt-Ata Kyzylorda State University in Kazakhstan, the University of Tübingen and the Higher School of Economics in Russia show that the cat was a pet and cared for. They determined this because the cat was buried with care, it had a few broken bones that indicated it was treated and the most revealing of all, was the fact that the cat was older than one year. At the time the cat lived, cats were not typically kept as pets. Further analysis revealed that the cat had been fed meat by humans since it had lost all its teeth at the time of death.
Paleogeneticist Claudio Ottoni and his colleagues from KU Leuven (University of Leuven) and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences did a study to determine the ancestor of the modern domestic cat. There are five subspecies of the wildcat Felis silvestris that are known today, but all skeletal remains look the same.
Therefore, Ottoni studied the DNA from bones, teeth, skin, and hair from cats found at archaeological sites in the Near East, Africa and Europe. The cat remains were from 100 to 9000 years old.
What they discovered was that all domestic cats descended from the African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica, found in North Africa and the Near East. What Ottoni could not determine is if the cats from Egypt were a separate group of cats or if they descended from the African wildcat.
What is interesting is that most if not all the ancient cats were striped. Few if any had spots or blotches such as today’s tortoise shell or “tortie” cat. Spotted cats did not show up until the Middle Ages. Since cats were taken on ships to control the rodents, they spread across the world and remains have been found at Viking sites near the Baltic sea.