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5451Re: Domestication of the cat in the Near East

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  • Marc Cooper
    Jun 30, 2007
      To add to your list of references to cats in Mesopotamia the
      Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary offers quite a few from the 3rd
      millennium under sua. In addition cats turn up in Sumerian proverbs.

      It appears from the proverbs that Sumerians were familiar with the
      behavior of barnyard cats. There is a famous one which compares the
      servility of cattle to cats following behind a man holding a basket
      of food. There are others which refer to how cats love high places
      and their curiosity. The administrative texts mention fields and
      boats called "Cat" and also grain as food for cats.

      Marc Cooper

      --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, BisnoCC@... wrote:
      > Scarcely a cat in ancient Israel. But today they can be found on
      the tables
      > at any seafood restaurant on the beaches of Haifa and Tel Aviv!
      > mentioned in the Hebrew Bible that I know of, but probably because
      there was no
      > occasion to do so. Interestingly, however, they were not liked in
      Mesopotamia at
      > all
      > In Mesopotamian literature, several types of cats are recognized.
      In Old
      > Babylonian syllabic writing (cuneiform) they were su-a and su-a-ri,
      and in
      > Akkadian, an older form, Å¡u-ra-a-nu, mu-ra-Å¡u-u, and zi-ir-qa-
      ti. šurânu was a
      > housecat, murašu was a wild cat, and those are the two which
      concern us.
      > These and two others are still found in Iraq today.
      > Å umma alu means, "If a city" and is a series of omen texts which
      we know of
      > from the 1st millennium BCE. In the 27th tablet of as Å umma alu,
      there are
      > omens containing information for houses and their owners with
      regard to the
      > appearance and behavior of cats, mainly šurânu, housecats, and
      murašu, wild
      > cats. Their appearance, it says, was accompanied by screaming
      (šasû), wailing
      > (damâmu), whining (bakû), vomiting, urinating, defecating, and
      giving birth.
      > They sprung from above and below onto men, chairs, and beds, and
      they dirtied
      > the window sills.
      > Housecats were associated with the mongoose; the wild cat with the
      fox. All
      > four of these animals were on a list of harmful animals, having a
      > appearance and were bad omens:
      > "When there is a housecat in the house (šurânu), a man will kill
      > mongoose"
      > There were special purification rites to keep cats away. These
      > included rituals of cleansing of the owner and spreading gypsum in
      the house and
      > tar on the doors,
      > "against the evil of the wild cat which always wails in the house
      of man."
      > In ancient Babylon, the appearance of the wild cat, murašû, was
      a bad omen.
      > The oldest record we possess of a cat in Mesopotamia is an Old
      > document from Sippar, (šurânu), dating from the 12th year of
      > 1 šu-râ-nu-um 1 cat
      > The end of the text lists beasts, birds, foxes, and wild cats.
      > This Assyrio-Babylonian word was known for a long time from the
      Feasts of
      > Sargon, line 132.
      > Marduk apal iddin ". . . runs and climbs like a cat like himself
      to the wall
      > of his enclosure and enters into the fortress."
      > There was also a Chaldean cat that lived in the marshes.
      > Murašû and murašitû appear as neo-Babylonian personal names.
      All the
      > records which we possess for the housecat (murašû) belong to
      the 1st millennium
      > BCE, as in the course of the 2nd millennium BCE the šurânu came
      to mean
      > housecat as well.
      > This reference appears to be independent of the housecat
      developing from the
      > wild cat in Egypt, which was completed by the Middle Kingdom.
      > There are no cats depicted in Mesopotamian art. But there is
      > evidence of a cat as a symbol of a deity on an uncompleted kudurru
      (charter for a
      > grant of land) from the 12th century BCE.
      > Jay Bisno
      > Culver City, CA.
      > ************************************** See what's free at
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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