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ZOOARCH  August 2008

ZOOARCH August 2008

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Subject:

Re: domestic cat in Britain

From:

Leif Jonsson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Leif Jonsson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 7 Aug 2008 15:55:58 +0100

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Hi
Perhaps wild vs domestic cat in Scandinavia can give a hint on the question of 
domestic cats in Britain.
Wild cat is first found in early/middle Boreal contexts in coastal sites in SW 
Sweden. The latest dates for wild cat seems to be Ealry Subboreal, Middle 
Neolithic sites. Probably the wild cat went extinct during the change to colder 
and more continental climate during the Subboreal/Subatlantic transition (if 
not earlier). It is interesting to note that wild cat and lynx almost never occurr 
together on sites, we have the one or the other. I guess that the reason was 
that wild cat were taken by lynx at localities where there was winter snow 
deep enough to prevent the wild cat from passing on the ground. The wild cat 
we usually find at the coastal sites (less snow?). The main prey for the lynx 
was probably the hare and that animal seems also to have been very 
occasional in the coastal zone (dominated by hazel and broad-leaved trees in 
Boreal and Atlantic periods). That is also the case with the moose. The moose 
we find at inland sites where forests of pine and soft wood trees had greater 
extension. 
I don't know of any securely dated cats from the Bronze Age . Then cats, and 
from their size they were probably domestic, start to occurr in the first 
centuries AD. These finds are from graves. The oldest finds of house mouse 
are from Roman Period (contextual dating, unfortunately we don't have the 
mouse bones radio carbon dated) and perhaps that was one reason for 
obtaining domestic cats. In Migration Period graves they are frequent as grave 
animals in cremations. In the Middle Ages they were used for fur and as 
rat/mouse predators.
So from the Scandinavian perspective it seems that domestic cat did not 
arrive before AD.
Leif Jonsson
Göteborgs Naturhistoriska Museum

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