Journal of Archaeological Science vol:45 pages:103-111
Continued excavations at the Predynastic elite cemetery HK6 at Hierakonpolis have yielded new evidence for the cultural control of cats during the Naqada IC-IIB period (c. 3800-3600 BC). In the same burial ground where evidence was previously found for the keeping of jungle cat (Felis chaus), a small pit was discovered containing six cats. The animals that were buried simultaneously, are a male and a female, and four kittens belonging to two different litters. The long bone measurements of the adult individuals clearly fall in the range of Felis silvestris and outside those of Felis chaus and Felis margarita. Comparison of the measurements – through the log-ratio technique – with data from the literature, as well as morphological characteristics of the mandible, suggest that the animals are domestic. It is argued that these results should be used with caution, since the criteria established to distinguish wild and domestic cat in European sites may reflect differences at the subspecies level (wild F.s. silvestris versus the domestic form derived from F.s. lybica). In northern Africa only F.s. lybica (wild or domestic) occurs, thus the established criteria may not be adequate when applied to Egyptian material. However, possible circumstantial evidence for the cultural control of the cats buried at Hierakonpolis is provided by their ages at death which indicate a deviation from the birth pattern reported in Egyptian wild cats.