Péter Csonka/ Wikimedia Commons
Housecat history has unexpectedly leapt from the Near East into ancient China.
Small cats hunted grain-thieving rodents around the farming village of Quanhucun in central China about 5,300 years ago, reports Yaowu Hu of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The Chinese cats may not be the oldest signs of beginning domestication or the source for today’s domesticated cats. But they do give the earliest evidence of grain farming as the possible pathway to domestication, Hu and his colleagues report December 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The location “couldn’t have been more surprising,” says study coauthor Fiona Marshall of Washington University in St. Louis, who studies animal domestication.
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