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Skoglund was not involved in the new research, but he saw the results presented during a conference in Oxford, UK.“I didn’t even know there were Viking cats.” he says.
Cats are a recurrent theme in Norse mythology, says Jes Martens from the Cultural History Museum in Oslo, Norway.
Scientists behind the new study speculate that the friendship between people and cats arose as early farmers began to store grain.
The first wave arrived with the earliest farmers in the eastern Mediterranean, as indicated by the discovery of 9,500 year old grave in Cyprus.
It contained the remains of a cat and suggests that the relationship between humans and cats dates all the way back to the early days of farming.
The world’s first large study into ancient cat DNA reveals that the earliest ancestors of our furry friends reached Eurasia and Africa at the same time as early farmers, and were later helped by mariners, including the Vikings.
Scientists sequenced the DNA from 290 cats from more than 30 archaeological excavations throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, including the remains of a cat in a Viking grave in northern Germany.“There are so many interesting observations” in the study,” says Population Geneticist Pontus Skoglund from Harvard Medical School, USA.
It turned out to be a serpent, the Midgard Serpent, which not even Thor could lift,” says Martens.
If the Vikings had so many stories involving cats, then it makes perfect sense that they took cats with them on long voyages, he says.
The second wave took place thousands of years later as cats from Egypt quickly spread to the rest of Africa and Asia.Their genetic markers were discovered in cats from Bulgaria, Turkey, and sub Saharan Africa that also date to around the same time.