The first large-scale study of ancient feline DNA has been completed and the results show that our beloved furry friends have close ties with Vikings.
A team from the Institut Jacques Monod in France has successfully completed a study that sequenced the DNA from 209 cats that lived between 15,000 and 3,700 years ago with samples collected from more than 30 archaeological sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Until now, the history of ancient cats has been widely unknown. We have a wealth of knowledge on modern-day felines, but information of their origin and how they dispersed across the globe is limited.
What the team in France has found is that cats likely experienced two distinct waves of expansion during their early history. In the first wave, cats spread from the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean, moving through agricultural villages. The cat's presence was encouraged, as they took care of the mice that were attracted to the community's grains (plus, we all know how adorable cats are).
The second wave was discovered after researchers found mitochondrial lineage in ancient cats found in Egypt, as well as Bulgaria, Turkey, and sub-Saharan Africa in the same time period. The research team determined that this is due to lesser-known relationship between ancient cats and sea-faring people, such as sailors and Vikings. It's very likely that cats were encouraged onboard to keep rodent populations at bay.
Just when you think cats couldn't get any cooler, they go and find out that they were Vikings! This research still needs to be peer reviewed, but we're pretty excited with the results so far.
If you need us, we'll be scouring the Internet for a tiny Viking hats to give to our kitties.