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Thu Jun 30, 2016, 10:34 AM

The Role of Cats in Anglo-Saxon England

Was the human-feline relationship in Anglo-Saxon times very different from today? Researchers look to the archeological record for clues.
By Zazie Todd

Research by Kristopher Poole of the University of Nottingham investigates the role of cats in Anglo-Saxon England. The period from 410 C.E. until the Norman invasion of 1066 was a time of great change. The Roman Empire had lost its control and many people immigrated to England, particularly from northern Europe. The urban population grew as small towns developed, and the spread of Christianity brought changes in people’s belief systems. What kind of relationship did people have with cats during this time?

Fur is probably not the first thing you think of, but evidence from bones suggests that some cats — especially young ones — were used for fur. It isn’t known if the cats were bred for this or if they were captured. Cat bones found at Coppergate in York suggest the cats were skinned. “It would therefore seem that there was at least some commercial exploitation of cat furs in towns, although exactly how extensive this was is uncertain,” Poole says. “Notably, none of the cut marks on cat bones from this period indicate that the cat was seen as a food source.”

Mousing is an obvious use for cats, and was probably especially important in the urban areas. A 10th century Welsh text, The Laws of Hywel Dda, mentions this role when it describes what is important in a cat: “that it do not devour its kittens, and that it have ears, eyes, teeth and claws, and that it be a good mouser.” Mousers were probably not fed much in order to keep them hungry for their work.

And it seems that some cats were kept as pets. One source of evidence is that individual cats are given names in texts from the time. A famous example of this is the 9th-century poem “Pangur Bán,” written by an Irish monk and found in an Austrian monastery, about a cat called white Pangur (see here for two translations).


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Reply The Role of Cats in Anglo-Saxon England (Original post)
n2doc Jun 2016 OP
packman Jul 2016 #1
BlancheSplanchnik Jul 2016 #2

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Fri Jul 1, 2016, 10:37 AM

1. That Irish Monk - finishing a handwritten Bible after years of work and then----

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Response to packman (Reply #1)

Sat Jul 2, 2016, 11:11 AM

2. If GOD had wanted....

....etcetera and so forth.

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