2,000-Year-Old Pet Cemetery Unearthed in Egypt – Archaeology Magazine

A report from the University of Delaware detailing excavations at the Red Sea port city of Berenike, Egypt, includes the finding of a 2,000 year old ‘pet’ cemetery containing the remains of 17 dogs and cats, some still wearing their iron collars and attended by jewelry.

The ancient Egyptians’ love for their cats was well known to the ancient historians – although we need to treat their accounts with a certain amount of caution – Herodotus ( II: 66-67) describes the funerary processes, including embalmation, following the natural death of a cat [dog lover’s will be pleased to note that canines are also included!]. Diodorus Siculus (1st cent BCE) writes that even the unintentional killing of a cat was a capital offence:

“Whoever kills a cat in Egypt is condemned to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not. The people gather and kill him. An unfortunate Roman, who accidentally killed a cat, could not be saved, either by King Ptolemy of Egypt or by the fear which Rome inspired.

Such was the Egyptian’s veneration for the cat, Polyaenus (Stratagems VII:9) provides an account of the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, between Pharaoh Psametik III and the Persian leader Cambyses II in which cats played a strategic role. Polyaenus writes that aware of the reverence with which the Egyptians held the cat, Cambyses ordered that images of the cat-god Bastet be painted on his soldiers’ shields. Furthermore, he placed before his front-line all those animals, including cats, that he knew the Egyptians held dear. Fearing to injure the animals the Egyptian army took flight and was massacred. After the battle, it is reported that the cats were thrown into the faces of the defeated Egyptians by Cambyses, disgusted that a nation should surrender to ensure the safety of animals.

What is really interesting is that this find points to practises and attitudes relating to a multi-cultural, non-aristocratic levels of society.

“What makes this unique is (despite) the very rough circumstances in which these people are living, they still manage to find the time and effort to have companion animals with them,”

Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware.

Source: 2,000-Year-Old Pet Cemetery Unearthed in Egypt – Archaeology Magazine

For the USA Today article click here


Neolithic dairy farming and the land flowing with milk and honey…

Ramla, Palestine, 1938.
Ramla, Palestine, 1938.

A recent study by a team of scientists and archaeologists from the Universities of York and Bristol, together with colleagues from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, have reported evidence of dairy production and processing in northern Mediterranean farming communities from Neolithic times. The identification of milk and bovine carcass fats in over 500 pottery vessels, as well as a study of faunal remains for slaughter patterns, at over 82 sites from the 7th-5th millennia BCE suggests that dairy farming was an important (if localised) element within farming communities at this time. The report helps to provide a clearer picture of the place and role of cattle exploitation in Neolithic Mediterranean farming and, although the research is centred on northern sites, it could strengthen the case for a mixed agricultural economy in the southern Levant.

Damascus cow (modern) native to Syria. Image: http://www.krankykids.com/cows/mydailycow_alphabetical/A.html
Damascus cow (modern) native to Syria. Image: from My Daily Cow at krankykids.com

The traditional view that the Israelite nation emerged from nomadic tribes has recently been challenged by numerous scholars (for example see, Khazanov, 1983; Hiebert, 1996; Borowski, 1998; Sasson, 2008). Anthropological and archaeological evidence has refused to sit easily with the old tripartite, cultural-evolutionary model that premeates so much of biblical studies. This 18th/19th century theory (championed by scholars such as Wellhausen, Alt, von Rad and Noth) contends that human societies progress in a linear manner through three distinct phases: Hunter-gatherer > nomadic pastoralism > sedentary (agrarian) farming. The references to cattle (בָּקָר – ba.qar; ) in early strata Hebrew texts – particularly those relating to the Patriarchal History – indicate a close association with its past (in the form of cultural aetiology) and the husbandry of cattle. Even the figure who traditionally  has been most equated with nomadism (Abraham) is described as owning cattle (for example, Gen 15:9-10; 18:7-8; 21:27; 24:35). Read more