Re: Domestication of the cat in the Near East
- 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.
--- In ANEemail@example.com, BisnoCC@... wrote:
> Scarcely a cat in ancient Israel. But today they can be found on
> 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
> In Mesopotamian literature, several types of cats are recognized.
> Babylonian syllabic writing (cuneiform) they were su-a and su-a-ri,
> Akkadian, an older form, Å¡u-ra-a-nu, mu-ra-Å¡u-u, and zi-ir-qa-
ti. Å¡urÃ¢nu was a
> housecat, muraÅ¡u was a wild cat, and those are the two which
> 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,
> omens containing information for houses and their owners with
regard to the
> appearance and behavior of cats, mainly Å¡urÃ¢nu, housecats, and
> cats. Their appearance, it says, was accompanied by screaming
> (damÃ¢mu), whining (bakÃ»), vomiting, urinating, defecating, and
> They sprung from above and below onto men, chairs, and beds, and
> the window sills.
> Housecats were associated with the mongoose; the wild cat with the
> 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 (Å¡urÃ¢nu), a man will kill
> 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
> In ancient Babylon, the appearance of the wild cat, muraÅ¡Ã», was
a bad omen.
> The oldest record we possess of a cat in Mesopotamia is an Old
> document from Sippar, (Å¡urÃ¢nu), dating from the 12th year of
> 1 Å¡u-rÃ¢-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
> 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.
> MuraÅ¡Ã» and muraÅ¡itÃ» appear as neo-Babylonian personal names.
> records which we possess for the housecat (muraÅ¡Ã») belong to
the 1st millennium
> BCE, as in the course of the 2nd millennium BCE the Å¡urÃ¢nu came
> 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.
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