The Nazca geoglyphs have been described as one of Peru’s greatest mysteries. The geoglyphs are further flaunted as the most outstanding worldwide due to their size, quantity, and magnitude. The geoglyphs are categorized into two. First are the living creatures comprising trees, birds, insects, plants as well as everyday objects. Second are lines, famously known as the Nazca Lines, and comprise over 800 straight lines running over several kilometers and forming various geometrical shapes. The lines and geoglyphs can be found in the Grande de Nasca river basin’s desert plains, where the ancient inhabitants called home for over 2000 years. Considering the distinct shapes of birds, monkeys, and spiders discovered during archeological visits, we should not be surprised that a 2000-year-old cat doodle was found in Peru. Still, it is not an incident we can brush off, especially when the doodle is in a UNESCO world heritage. Here is more about the cat doodle as you also get to learn about the history of cats and why they were treated like royalty in ancient communities.
The Cat Doodle Almost Disappeared
According to Prowell, the doodle was discovered when the UNESCO World Heritage site was undergoing renovation. Archeologists said the 37-meter long shape was immediately concluded to be a cat due to the pointy ears, paws, round eyes and mouth, and a long body and tail. The head was facing the front, and the lines were between 30 and 40 cm wide. The culture minister said that they barely recognized the figure, but it became quite clear after cleaning it for over a week. However, he warned that it would have disappeared, given its location on a steep slope prone to erosion.
Still, even if it would have gone unnoticed, the chief archeologist said he was sure that more geoglyphs await discovery. He knew it because, over the last few years, glyphs belonging to the Nazca culture had been unearthed, and they were speculated to have been drawn between 200 and 700 AD. Regarding the cat doodle, the chief archeologist said that when compared to the rest, it must have been engraved during the late Paracas era that ran from 500BC to 200AD. This new find could increase the number of tourists who visit Nazca-Palpa Archeological Park. However, there are still concerns that the more the visits, the bigger the impact of pollution and erosion in the area; hence the conservation efforts may go down the drain.
It is Not the Oldest Archeological Find
While the 2000-year-old cat doodle is quite a fascinating discovery exhibiting how long the relationship between humans and felines has existed, there was an archeological find in a 9,500-year-old gravesite in Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean. According to National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2004/04/oldest-known-pet-cat-9500-year-old-burial-found-on-cyprus/), the remains showed that the Egyptian art depicting cats had existed for at least 4,000 years. The archeologist, Jean-Denis Vigne, added that the cat remains could as well have been an indication of the oldest pet cat in the world.
While there was no specific timeline to show when precisely humans began domesticating cats, the fact that the cat had been buried with his human in the gravesite was proof that the felines held a special place in the hearts of the Shillourokambis villagers. While the mummified cat remains go as far back as 4,000 years, there have been findings of 10,000-year-old pottery and engravings of cats showing the felines were still revered in the late Stone Age period.
Why Cats Held Such a Special Place in Ancient Egypt
For people to draw a 37-meter long shape of a cat on a slope, mummify dozens of cats and bury 100 cat statues in a tomb, there has to be a reason behind such great reverence for cats. It was especially common in ancient Egypt for cats to be treated like gods, and they replaced several deities. For instance, JSTOR Daily explains that it was through a gradual process that the ancient Egyptians began attributing divine characteristics to the felines. Cats are known for their love for basking in the sun; thus, with time, the Egyptians associated them with the god sun, Ra. Additionally, another goddess, Bastet, first depicted as a lion associated with protection and fertility, was finally replaced by a half-cat, half-woman figure. People even began wearing cat amulets for protection.
History Extra further said that although Egyptians depicted their goddesses as different animals, none of them compared to the love shown to cats. The article explains that cats were adored because they protected society from snakes and scorpions and kept the agricultural produce safe from rodents. This ability to protect Egyptians saw the evolution of the goddess of protection from a lion to a cat. The felines were so cherished that killing one was a capital offense, and their death was treated with such honor that the cats were mummified and mourned.
Do You Know The History of Cats?
Although now you can find cats in almost every home and archeologists find cat art in different parts of the world, Pet Plan tells us that cats originated from the North African/Southwest Asian wildcat. The felines are native to the Fertile Crescent found along the Nile and stretches to different countries such as Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. While the region was mostly harsh, the Fertile Crescent was lush, providing a conducive environment for settling down.
The article further says that cats’ domestication may have begun over 12,000 years ago when Egyptians experienced a bumper harvest and needed to store the food. However, there were many pests and rodents which wildcats found easy prey; therefore, Egyptians took them in to guard their food supply; hence domestication began. When the Egyptian kingdom was incorporated into the Roman Empire, cats were dispersed, only belonging to the crème de la crème of the society as a status symbol. They found their way to America through Columbus, who sailed with them, but the felines left the ship to survive in the world.