House cat ancestors' remains found in Polish caves—2,000 miles from home
The discovery of 7,000-year-old remains of the Near Eastern wildcat in Europe adds a new wrinkle to the cat's evolutionary story.
When early Neolithic farmers set off from the Fertile Crescent some 7,000 years ago, they brought their newly domesticated animals, such as goats, sheep, cattle, and dogs. But they likely didn’t realize a sneaky hitchhiker, the Near Eastern wildcat, was coming along, too.
When the migrants reached Poland about 6,000 years ago and started converting forests into open pastures and agricultural fields, the rodents and the wildcats—an ancestor of our domestic cat—settled right in. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which found the first known skeletal remains of Near Eastern wildcats in four Polish caves near early farming settlements.
“It was so unexpected,” says study leader Magdalena Krajcarz, an archaeozoologist at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. One