Unanswered [0] | Urgent [0] - SERVICES
  

Home / Writing Feedback   % width Posts: 2

On the origins of domesticated felines - Anthropology essay


FredParisFrance 61 / 7  
Jul 10, 2007   #1
Hello,

Could you please read my Anthropology essay and give me some feedback?

The prompt is:

What was the first animal to be domesticated? How do we know the early remains of this animal are a domesticated version? In order to answer this question, pretend you are a member of an archaeological expedition and tell me about a typical day on your Dig. This may be as creative as you would like. No matter what approach you take, make sure you address finding the remains of what you think is an early domesticated animal and what you think it is and why.

Thank you in advance.
Frederic

Like a cat that has got the cream...On the origins of domesticated felines

The earliest records of tamed animals dated back to about eleven thousand years ago and were localized in Southeast Asia and North America. Wolves were the first animals domesticated by humans through a long process that led them to becoming dogs. Although such research is quite attractive, I prefer to engage in the research conducted by the French CNRS scientists in Cyprus, in the wake of their initial discovery of an alleged domesticated cat. Indeed, a few years ago, they revealed the presence of an individual who was buried with a cat more than nine thousand years ago. Thus, since a few days, as a voluntary worker, I have been allocated to a team of archaeologists to help them dig new test pits. On my first days, in addition to the basic rules for excavating without deteriorating, they reminded me of two essential aspects for performing accurate analyses. First, archaeologists should always cultivate their cultural relativism to counteract their ethnocentrism because it might be all too easy to misunderstand the clues that they would encounter. Second, archaeology should be thought in the same way as international and transnational corporations did: act locally and think globally. Indeed, although archaeologists could be bound for several years to a specific site or area, they should keep abreast of the latest developments in their field to expand their knowledge and thus constantly envisage new viewpoints.

On my first weeks, I was allocated a test pit to finish, which was about one square meter and fifty centimetres deep. I summoned up my pens, notebook, plastic bags, camera, brush, trowel, shovel, bucket, sieve and courage, and then, I started digging alone what was one of the first preliminary excavations in this particular area. The spot had been defined through techniques of statistical sampling to detect the presence or absence of any archaeological site. My objective, as regards that pit, was conspicuous: dig as deep as artefacts could be found. Therefore, each time I delicately threw the shovel into the soil, to avoid deteriorating any eventual present material of interest, I put the shovelful into the sieve. Next, I unhurriedly sifted the mix of mineral and vegetal materials with, sometimes, the joy of discovering artefacts. When so pleasant a moment happened, I both drew and photographed the objects before putting it meticulously in a plastic bag. Subsequently, I wrote a brief description of the object on my notebook. Then, I recorded the reference of the bag and put it into the bucket.

Days passed by slowly until, just before throwing the shovel into the soil, I noticed the profile of a tiny skull, which I was acquainted with, that showed on the surface. It presumed, in all likelihood, it was the cranium of a baby feline. Therefore, I exchange my shovel for a trowel and a brush before continuing further my investigation. I carefully removed the earth around the skull to avoid damaging it with the metallic blade. Much to my surprise, the rest of the skeleton was present as well. Consequently, I pursued the excavation until the whole skeleton could be visible. More surprisingly was the occurrence of remains of three other tiny felines and a kind of little saucer. With a brush, I completely freed those archaeological clues without abrading the materials with my tools. Finally, I photographed the scene before drawing the spot. The four little felines were curled up in a ball and the plate was close to them. A senior archaeologist, whose specialization was the animal osteology, confirmed the creatures were baby felines.

The subsequent days, I was allowed to quit the pit to assist senior archaeologists during their attempts for dating the remains I had found. The opening stage was to select dating methods as acute as possible to establish the period during which the animals lived. The first method was based on a relative dating technique that consisted of comparing the depths, at which other previous artefacts and bones were discovered, with the depth of my findings. The initial conclusion estimated the felines were roughly about nine thousand years old. Then, the second method was based on an absolute dating technique that meant the components were not compared to something else but were dated on their own. Samplings of bones were dated thanks to a radiometric method known as carbon dating, or more scientifically: accelerator mass spectrometry. The aim was to count the actual number of carbon 14 atoms still present in the bones. The absolute and relative dating techniques corroborated an estimated period of nine thousand five hundred years before present.

After that, biological evidence needed to be unveiled to pursue the analysis. Zoologists whose specialisation was to study early animals, also known as palaeontologists, scrutinized the skeletons to concentrate the research. They searched through files and scientific journals to be able to substantiate their opinions that those felines were cats. Besides, they performed DNA tests to ascertain their conclusions. Palaeontologists determined that those kittens belonged to an ancient form of Near Eastern wildcat. They also specified that that species was the ancestor of our pet, Felis silvestris, whose lineage had been verified through the transmission of the mitochondrial DNA, which had been passed on from mothers to offspring and which had not been affected by the reshuffling of chromosomes during the meiosis. The idea began to germinate in their mind that those cats could have been domesticated and not wild. However, they faced a significant obstacle: domestic and wild cats did not seriously differ in their sizes but only in their furs. Genetics revealed the kitten were linked to actual cats in many ways. The palaeontologists advised me to address cultural anthropologists to obtain more details about the relations between humans and cats. The latter could help me elucidate that puzzle.

Indeed, cultural anthropologists proved highly valuable to provide precious information about the ties between domestic cats and humans as far back as the Neolithic. Cultural evidence divided into two types in that case: the geographical and relational proximity between the spot of my findings and the prior archaeological excavations in this area. First, the kittens were situated relatively close to the entrance of a cave, which used to be a shelter for the early Homo sapiens, namely a few dozens of meters. Therefore, a wild cat should have not chosen such a place because it was too close to potential predators or disturbances such as humans. On the other hand, domestic cats, adapted to the human presence, would have favoured such a place because it could have permitted them to care their offspring and acquire food supplies such as mice that lived near grain reserves. Second, the unearthing of artefacts, such as the plate, near the skeletons induced the anthropologists to deem the cats were attended to by humans who could have established relations of confidence with the animals, if not a complete domestication, through actions as feeding wild cats with milk that came from previously tamed species such as the bovines. Those conclusions were the result of ethnographic analogies with current humans and pets' behaviours. Previous comparisons of humans and their ecosystems around the globe aided the anthropologists to illuminate that mystery.

Cultural anthropologists searched for other clues into the cultural background of those early dwellers of this region, as well. Although the pictorial representations of animals widely proliferated through the ages, they remained meagre in those days. However, although the quantity was not outstanding, they were available in the form of cave paintings, sculptures, engraved antlers, or pieces of wood. Nevertheless, extreme caution was required as regards the conclusions that could have been reached. Indeed, the fact that animals could have been represented did not suggest relations of a kind friendship towards those beasts. Those representations could have been the depictions of game or of feared animals such as vermin. Consequently, portrayals of animals did not mandatory demonstrate any relations of companionship between humans and animals but only that those animals were of tremendous importance in the lives of the Homo sapiens in the Neolithic.

The conclusions of those weeks have been multifarious but perfectly illustrated the diversity of the archaeological field. First, numerous fields, whose focuses range from biology to culture, have not only been crucial but also compulsory to validate or refute the hypotheses which have been drawn from field observations. Second, the conception of theories has been feasible thanks to specialised and generalised knowledge of committed scientists who have pushed further the barriers of the understanding of anthropology. Third, those cross-boundary connections have allowed the anthropologists to expand the knowledge of the aspect of human history that have been linked to the ecosystem. Finally, it has appeared that the comprehension of contemporaneous situations and actions has had roots in the distant past, far beyond the limits of space or time scales, which we have been accustomed. Lessons from the past have unveiled that, when one has been feeding its cat with cream or stroking it, the source of peoples' attachment to their pets could be rooted not only into psychological or sociological but also into behaviour from the Neolithic. However, such reflections open the door of socio-biology, also known as evolutionary psychology.

EF_Team2 1 / 1,709  
Jul 11, 2007   #2
Greetings!

A very interesting and enjoyable essay! I have a few editing suggestions:

I both drew and photographed the object before putting it meticulously in a plastic bag.

I presumed that, in all likelihood, it was the cranium of a baby feline. Therefore, I exchange my shovel for a trowel and a brush before continuing my investigation further.

More surprising was the occurrence of remains of three other tiny felines

In addition, they performed DNA tests to ascertain their conclusions.

The idea began to germinate in their minds

Genetics revealed the kittens were linked to actual cats in many ways.

would have favoured such a place because it could have permitted them to care for their offspring

through actions such as feeding wild cats with milk

Consequently, portrayals of animals did not necessarily demonstrate any relations of companionship between humans and animals

to expand the knowledge of the aspect of human history that has been linked to the ecosystem.

roots in the distant past, far beyond the limits of space or time scales, to which we have been accustomed.

The only other suggestion I would make is that you add a concluding sentence which summarizes the main idea of the essay. It seems to stop rather abruptly.

Good work!

Thanks,

Sarah, EssayForum.com


Home / Writing Feedback / On the origins of domesticated felines - Anthropology essay