Mesopotamian Steatite Panther, late 4th-early 3rd mill. BC
Burney Relief, owl and lion, detail, Babylonia,1800 BCE
It’s a well known fact that Egyptians are credited with the domestication of cats, but did you know that the history of felines in society dates back far longer than that?
Like many things in modern culture, the presence of cats in towns can be traced back to the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. It is believed that around the same time that livestock such as cattle and goats began to be domesticated– around 10,000 years ago– cats, too, were becoming prevalent amongst humans. For the same reasons that the ancient Egyptians kept our feline companions around, so did the ancient Mesopotamians. Small and crafty hunters meant that farmers’ food stores would be safe from rodents as would their homes. Of course, Egyptians were the first to keep cats as pets, but that would not have been possible without the initial cat-human bond forged by Mesopotamians.
For reasons unknown, it is ultimately rare to find artwork depicting domesticated cats in collections dating back to Mesopotamia, but their relatives are much more commonplace. While the lion seemed to be the favored cat for sculptures and reliefs, the occasional panther made its way into immortalization at the hands of talented artists of the time.
Via Archaeology Blog dedicated to the greatest ancient culture – Mesopotamia.