Minister awards 2013 HSC in Modern Greek

The ceremony saw students receive a Certificate for Excellence from the Minister in front of their families and senior representatives from across the education sectors.

2013 highlights include:

Modern Greek Beginners
Rhonda Douroukis – Georges River College Oatley Senior Campus

Modern Greek Continuers
Fotini Kapsabelis – St Spyridon College (Maroubra)

Modern Greek Extension
Dionisia Kolevris – Open High School (RANDWICK)

Classical Greek Continuers
Kim Zhang – Pymble Ladies’ College

Over 70,000 students will have access to their HSC results from 6.00am tomorrow (Wednesday 18 December).

Results are available online and by SMS using a secure system requiring a Student Number and HSC PIN. For more information on HSC results go to

The Board of Studies HSC Results Inquiry Centre 1300 13 83 23 will be open from 9 am for students with questions about their HSC results.

Minister awards 2013 HSC first in course recipients


Media release

The Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli today presented 2013 HSC students with First in Course Awards at an event at Australian Technology Park.

“Any student who receives their HSC has worked hard, and I congratulate all students who have completed their exams this year,” Mr Piccoli said.

“HSC courses are demanding and the assessment and examination process is designed to challenge students.

“To claim the First in Course spot is a great honour for these students, and they, their teachers and their families should be very proud.

“The First in Course Awards acknowledge the highest achieving student in each HSC course, where the result is in the highest possible band for that course.

“The HSC is a world-class credential and coming first demonstrates and extremely high level of achievement on an international level.

“Completing the HSC requires immense dedication from students, and support from both teachers and parents,” Mr Piccoli said.

The ceremony saw students receive a Certificate for Excellence from the Minister in front of their families and senior representatives from across the education sectors.

2013 highlights include:

Awards made to 121 students in 112 courses

Equal first place in nine courses

Three students receiving a First in Course Award for more than one course

83 of the 121 recipients are young women, and 38 are young men

12 students live in regions outside of Sydney, including students from: Inverell, Grafton, Hermidale, Coonamble, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, and two students from Cooma.

This year marked the first examination of the Financial Services course. This course is designed to provide students with skills and knowledge to seek a job straight from school or as a sound foundation for higher level education or university studies.

Over 70,000 students will have access to their HSC results from 6.00am tomorrow (Wednesday 18 December).

Results are available online and by SMS using a secure system requiring a Student Number and HSC PIN. For more information on HSC results go to

The Board of Studies HSC Results Inquiry Centre 1300 13 83 23 will be open from 9 am for students with questions about their HSC results.

List of students who won awards

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Hunter students top HSC courses

HUNTER and Central Coast students have outperformed tens of thousands of their peers to top traditional and vocational courses in the Higher School Certificate.

Lambton High School student Claire Brooks has come first in the state for Earth and Environmental Science, St Philip’s Christian College, Waratah, student Daniel Lee holds the state’s top spot in Construction and TAFE Hunter Institute student Ashlie Fisher came first in the Entertainment Industry exam.

St Joseph’s Catholic College East Gosford student Maddie Doorn has topped the Studies of Religion I exam.

The four students were honoured at a First In Course awards ceremony in Sydney on Tuesday.

Awards were given to 121 students- including 83 young women and 38 young men- in 112 courses.

Daniel, 18, of Maryland said he chose to study Construction to further his plans to work with an aid agency in poverty relief.

”I just always wanted to do it: I did a few mission trips with Aboriginal communities when I was younger and I’ve got a heart for it,” he said.

“I’ve just got back from Vanuatu where I went instead of schoolies to build a playground for a school.”

Daniel said he studied most for Construction because it wasn’t his strongest subject.

“I laughed when I heard I came first, I wasn’t feeling confident about it so I was shocked.”

He has been offered a scholarship to study for a Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Poverty and Development Studies at Avondale College at Cooranbong next year.

Aspiring film director Ashlie Fisher, 18, of Belmont North travelled every Tuesday afternoon from Warners Bay High to TAFE Hunter Institute at Tighes Hill to study Entertainment Industry, in which she now holds a Certificate III qualification.

She volunteered at Starstruck and Newcastle Writer’s Festival as part of her work placement and has applied what she learned to her part time job at Hoyts Charlestown.

“I’ve always loved Steven Spielberg films, so he is a big inspiration,” she said.

“I went well in trials so was pretty confident when I walked into the exam and pretty happy when I came out, but I didn’t expect this, this is amazing.”

She said the award was “the icing on the cake” after being accepted to study at the Australian Film Television and Radio school from next year.

Claire Brooks, 18, of Elemore Vale had to double check there hadn’t been a mistake when told of her achievement.

“I’ve always done pretty well but it was a shock to be first,” she said.

Claire said she had been fascinated by volcanoes, earthquakes and plate tectonics since she was a child.

She used mind maps to remember course content, which she hopes she will continue to build on with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Earth and Environmental Science and geology at the University of Newcastle.

Claire’s father Anthony, also a science enthusiast, passed away this year.

“I know he would be really happy, my mum and sister are proud of me and amazed I did so well.”

Claire was also awarded this year the Reuben F Scarf Award for Commitment to studies and the Ashley Sands Memorial Award for achieving first place in her grade in Earth and Environmental Science.

“I’m a little bit nervous about the results coming out on Wednesday, but excited too.”

Maddie Doorn, 17, of Bateau Bay said she had enjoyed learning about the history of religion, including how it developed and was expressed.

“But I actually put more effort into other subjects, so this was a nice surprise.”

The NSW Institute of Sport scholarship holder divided her time this year between studying and representing her state in basketball, having also been selected to the under 19 Australian squad.

She hopes to study physiotherapy next year at the University of Sydney or the Australian Catholic University.

NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said HSC courses were demanding and the assessment and examination process was designed to challenge students.

“The HSC is a world- class credential and coming first demonstrates an extremely high level of achievement on an international level.”

Ice cream hits the spot at CanTeen

Source: Sunshinecoast

THE daily stresses of living with cancer were washed away with a scoop of ice cream by the beach for a group young people visiting the Sunshine Coast.

Wendy’s Ice Cream brought a sweet treat to 65 children and teenagers having a break at Dicky Beach as part of the annual CanTeen Summer Program yesterday.

Smooth and creamy ice cream was taken from the freezer, across the sand to the group in a surprise delivery.

The children spent the warm summer’s day at the Caloundra beach playing games and swimming on the second last day of the camp.

CanTeen is an organisation which supports, develops and empowers young people living with cancer.

The organisation runs the five-day overnight programs to provide much-needed relief for these young Australians.

An extra 23,000 young people every year have to face the challenge of dealing with cancer – whether they’ve been diagnosed themselves or a parent, brother or sister has the disease.

“A cancer diagnosis threatens the security of a young person’s world, leaving them feeling vulnerable, frightened and confused,” CanTeen programs officer Jaimie Trotter said.

“Attending a CanTeen program gives our members the chance to meet other young people who truly understand what they’re going through while also having some fun.

“The programs are free to attend and that’s why we’re so grateful for every donation we receive from the community and our corporate supporters such as Wendy’s.

“The programs wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Christmas brings out Aussie stars: Mary Coustas and Naomi Watts go shopping in Coogee

Source: DailyTelegraph

Surprising pals ... Naomi Watts with Mary Coustas doing some grocery shopping in Coogee / Picture: Matrix Media Group

Surprising pals … Naomi Watts with Mary Coustas doing some grocery shopping in Coogee / Picture: Matrix Media Group Source: Supplied

NAOMI Watts and Nicole Kidman are the famous BFFs, but the King Kong actress caught up with a surprising pal while grocery shopping yesterday.

Watts was snapped running errands in Coogee with comedian and new mum Mary Coustas, aka Effie.

Clearly fond of her friend, The Diana actor recently praised Coustas’s book, All I Know: A Memoir of Love, Loss And Life, which reflected on the deaths of her father, grandmother and daughter.

“Mary’s book is a reminder that we don’t have to be alone with grief. I loved it,” Watts wrote.

The Aussie celebs are certainly enjoying being back home over Christmas and surrounded by family and their A-list friends.

Watts, partner Liev Schreiber, and their two sons Sasha, 6, and Samuel, 4, joined Simon Baker and his wife Rebecca Rigg and their two sons – Claude, 15, and Harry, 12 – for a traditional Aussie barbecue.

To add to the celebrity Christmas extravaganza, Brad Pitt is rumoured to be flying into Sydney to spend the holidays with Angelina Jolie and their six children, who have been living Down Under while she films Unbroken.


All I Know: A memoir of love, loss and life

All I know - image

All I know “A memoir of love, loss and life” by Mary Coustas
Reviewed By Katerina

Mary Coustas, one of Australia’s most famous comedians known for her wacky role as “Effie” (that girl with the crazy hair) in “Acropolis  Now.  Takes  us into her private world….

It begins in her early childhood, growing up in multicultural  Collingwood, then later on in formal Doncaster, with her parents and her brother, Con. It was a typical  fun-loving Greek household. Though sadly, her beloved  father, who she adored, suffered constantly from heart attacks. It was a reminder to Mary, how precious life was, even at a young age. Mary was an outsider at school, trying to make friends. It wasn’t easy for a normal average Greek girl. But with the love and support from her family, Mary later discovered a passion from acting.  She went to university and got her degree, and met many friends, including Nick Giannopulos  from (Acropolis now)  and her adopted sister, as she calls her.

Sadly at the loss of her father and her Giagia (Grandmother from Greece). She also tells us of her journey to her homeland in Greece, meeting up with her huge relatives, some with humorous anecdotes that make you smile with laughter.

And final meeting her future husband George,who was fighting to get custody of his son, Max,from his previous marriage. Then the loss of their precious stillborn  daughter Stevie. Amongst all, Mary never  gave up hope that one day she will have a family, even though doctor’s told her she couldn’t conceive anymore children.

I fully recommend  reading this extraordinary novel, with a box of tissues in hand, as you get involved in her story…as I did.

”I wasn’t prepared for the breast pump!”: Peter Andre on becoming a father for the third time


The Mysterious Girl singer reveals he had a meltdown in Mothercare

Naw. Don't they look lovely together?

Naw. Don’t they look lovely together?

Peter Andre has revealed he wasn’t ready for the trials and tribulations that come with breast-feeding.

The Mysterious Girl singer told OK Magazine: “I had a meltdown in Mothercare. I wasn’t prepared for the breast pump, I nearly passed out when I saw it.

“This is the first time I’ll experience breast-feeding, so I needed to ask lots about that.”

Peter, who already has a son, Junior, 8, and a daughter, six-year-old Princess, with first wife Katie Price, is expecting his first child with girlfriend Emily in January.

Speaking about the sex of their baby, Peter said: “I did want a boy because I always dreamed of taking him fishing and things. I’m so close to Princess and Junior and they offer different things.

“Junior loves fishing and Princess likes making cakes and drawing. Princess has said, though, that if it’s not a girl, she’s not interested because she only has brothers and is desperate for a sister! But I’d be happy with either. We are so blessed.”

OK! Cover 31.12.13

“I feel bad saying I’d like one or the other because the most important thing is for the baby to be healthy,” Emily added. “But part of me would love a girl because with four brothers, I’ve grown up with football, rugby and cricket. I’d love a girl to take to ballet. But at least I know how to deal with boys!”

The 24-year-old medical student reveals her parents were delighted when she told them she was pregnant.

“They were excited. They love kids and have five of their own, plus my mum is a paediatrician. I’ve got such a good relationship with my parents, so I knew they’d be lovely about it. I called my mum as soon as I found out.”

She added: “They were so happy and excited for us, but of course they thought about my degree. But we booked a meeting with the university to go over it. That was the only serious discussion we had. They were never upset. And it happens quite regularly at uni apparently!”

Muslim gardener reports ‘George Michael’ warning


George Michael and a praying Muslim man. File photo montage: AP, Mrehan/Flickr, TL

A gardener in Gothenburg who said he suffered months of racist and sexual abuse at work has taken his case to Sweden’s equality watchdog, stating he was told to cut his Islamic beard to resemble George Michael in order not to upset “racist Swedes”.

The alleged abuse began at the interview stage, as the man was told he would have to cut his beard to work at the company. “Swedes are racist, ” the employer said. Therefore it was necessary for the man to cut his beard as “we work for a Swedish company”.

When a case worker from Sweden’s National Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen), who was helping the gardener with his application, stepped in to ask the employer what exactly the company meant by its requirement that the job seeker trim his beard, he was told the man’s facial hair should be “like George Michael”.

The allegations, laid out in an official report submitted to the Swedish Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen – DO) earlier this year, also claimed that the Employment Agency staffer then urged the man “to tidy himself up a bit” and accept the employer’s demands, and also said the employer probably just had “a sense of humour”.

While the man did trim his beard, he has stated that he felt uneasy with the decision. He had also asked that he be allowed to take breaks during work, when other employees took time off to smoke, in order for him to pray.

At first, he was part of a team at work with many other Muslims who prayed together. But within one month, the employer’s irritation at his praying and a litany of jokes about his beard and several vulgar comments with sexual content began to mar his employment.

“(The boss) and other colleagues started asking when NNN was going to shave off his beard,” read the official complaint to. The document contained reference to the sexual banter that the man found deeply offensive, and which he later recorded to prove he was being mistreated. Among other things, the man was asked about his sexual interactions with woman and about the size of his genitalia.

“NNN attempts to ignore the harassment by looking away and ignoring the questions. In the end he says he is not comfortable with the questions.”

DO has now asked the man’s employer to answer a long list of questions about the work place environment and whether there were steps taken to ensure discrimination did not take place. DO is a government agency that seeks to combat discrimination on grounds of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age.

“Have you taken any action due to the harassment? Describe the review with dates and included any documentation,” the DO letter stated. “What did the review find? Were NNN and others informed of the review and what it found? Have you spoken to NNN about whether he needs support and help?”

The jibes and the taunts about the man’s beard continued as summer arrived. When he scratched his beard, he was told to stop because “it scares the Swedes”. Another employee threatens to beat him if he scratched his beard again, the complaint to DO stated.

His employer also increasingly took issue with the man taking a break to pray, leaving his increasingly stressed out employee to sneak off to the woods to pray – which is required five times daily by observant Muslims. The employer also said he had to quit praying at night, because it would affect his performance at work. Citing the same reason, the employer said the man was not allowed to fast during Ramadan.

“NNN’s view is that it has always been clear to the employer and his colleagues that he is a practicing Muslim,” the complaint read. “That NNN is forced to stop fasting and is not allowed to pray at his place of work is linked to his religious affiliation(…) Furthermore, non-religions colleagues are allowed to take more “smoking breaks” while NNN cannot take an equally long break to pray.”

NNN’s legal representative with the Gothenburg Human Rights Center (Göteborgs rättighetscenter, GRC) said she would not comment on the case until DO had issued its official ruling.


Nick Xenophon not telling the full story on price of Australian cars overseas


Nick Xenophon not telling the full story on price of Australian cars overseas.

Photo: Nick Xenophon not telling the full story on price of Australian cars overseas. (AAP: Stefan Postles)

Map: Australia

Holden confirmed the Australian car manufacturing industry’s worst fears when it announced on December 11 it would close its operations in South Australia and Victoria by 2017.

Before the announcement, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and his Democratic Labor Party counterpart John Madigan made pleas to Prime Minister Tony Abbott to keep Holden in Australia by increasing government assistance.

Senator Xenophon said the Australian car industry does not compete with other car-making countries on a “level playing field”.

“We have this crazy deal with Thailand, a free trade agreement, where cars made in Thailand come here with no duty whatsoever, but if you want to buy a Ford Territory that retails for $38,000 to $40,000 in Australia, it will cost you over $100,000 in Thailand,” he said in Canberra on December 9.

  • The claim: Nick Xenophon says a Ford Territory that retails for $38,000 to $40,000 in Australia costs over $100,000 in Thailand.
  • The verdict: Senator Xenophon’s claim is not the full story. Excise is levied on all cars in Thailand, locally made or imported.


ABC Fact Check asked Senator Xenophon for the basis for his figures. His office said they came from ‘The strategic role of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry’, a report prepared by ACIL Allen Consulting in September 2013 for the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, an industry organisation.

The report says the Ford Territory costs “an unattractive $100,000 [in Thailand], which is far above the price of a comparable locally made product”.

Price of a Ford Territory

Ford Australia shipped 100 Ford Territorys to Thailand in August 2012. Currently the Ford Territory Titanium model sells for 2,990,000 Thai Baht, which is equivalent to $102,211.

The same model in Australia, the Ford Territory Titanium RWD, costs between $59,357 and $61,076 depending on which state it is purchased in.

Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement

A Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force on January 1, 2005. It has eliminated the majority of Thai tariffs on goods imported from Australia.

Following the agreement, Thailand eliminated tariffs on Australian large passenger motor vehicles, defined as cars with an engine capacity of over 3000cc, as well as goods vehicles such as pick-up trucks. Previously these tariffs were 80 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. For smaller vehicles and all automotive parts, components and accessories also, tariffs are now zero. These Australian products enter Thailand duty free.

Tariffs on engines were halved to 15 per cent.

Thailand’s car excise

Shortly after the agreement came into force, the Thai government introduced a new automotive excise regime based on engine capacity, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said.

All cars, whether they are manufactured locally or imported, attract an excise of up to 50 per cent.

Excise tax rates for personal vehicles in Thailand

  • Passenger car with cylindrical volume not exceeding 2,000cc and engine power not exceeding 220 horse power – 30%
  • Passenger car with cylindrical volume exceeding 2,000cc but not exceeding 2,500cc and engine power not exceeding 220 horse power – 35%
  • Passenger car with cylindrical volume exceeding 2,500cc but not exceeding 3,000cc and engine power not exceeding 220 horse power – 40%
  • Passenger car with cylindrical volume exceeding 3,000cc or with engine power not exceeding 220 horse power – 50%

 Source: Thailand Excise Department

Vehicles with engines larger than 2,500cc attract excises ranging between 40 and 50 per cent. Smaller vehicles such as pick-up trucks with engines up to 3,250cc attract excises between 3 and 20 per cent.

A later publication from the Thai government’s Fiscal Policy Office, ‘A Guide to Thai Taxation 2008’, described the excise as an indirect-selective sales tax.

“Apart from the dominant role of a revenue generator the purposes of imposing excise taxes are to restrict consumption of certain goods, to promote social and economic equity, encourage saving, and to reflect energy conservation and environmental issues,” the publication said.

For locally made cars, the excise is levied when they leave the factory, and for imported cars, when they arrive onshore.

“Large engine PMV (engines larger than 2,500cc), which are mainly imported to Thailand, are Australia’s primary export interest to Thailand,” the department’s spokeswoman said. “By contrast pick-up trucks and passenger pick-up vehicles (with engine sizes up to 3,250cc) are mostly produced by Thailand itself. By default, this excise regime discriminates against imported vehicles.”

The Ford Territory Titanium has an engine size of 2720cc and therefore attracts an excise of 40 per cent.

Adding other domestic taxes such as the value added tax (VAT) brings the Ford Territory Titanium to its retail price of about $100,000.

Thailand is however now moving to a new automotive excise regime based on CO2 emissions which is expected to take effect on January 1, 2016.

While these changes mean Thailand moves away from engine sizes as the driver for excise taxation, “the impact of these new changes on Australian exports is still unclear”, according to the department.

The department also says the Thai government did not breach the free trade agreement by introducing new excises after the agreement was entered into.

“Excise duties were not covered in the agreement. Excise duties are a domestic matter, determined independently by governments, and are generally not covered in FTAs. We are pursuing the matter with Thailand through bilateral trade discussions,” the department spokeswoman said.

Other countries that Australia has a free trade agreement with such as Malaysia and Singapore also have high car excises. In Singapore in order to own a large car like the Territory, a purchaser has to bid for and pay for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) to own a car. For cars bigger than 1600cc, COEs cost $SG73,010 or $65,036, more than the price of the Territory itself in Australia.

The Singapore government says these additional motor vehicle taxes are “to curb car ownership and lower congestion”.

The verdict

Excise is levied on all cars in Thailand, locally made or imported.

Senator Xenophon’s claim is not the full story.

The Australian government’s Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos passed through a raft of taxation and superannuation adjustments into law


Abandoned tax reforms hit Aussie startups hard

Reforms in Australia’s tax system that could have helped the startup scene in Australia have been abandoned, making future investments in new businesses a risk.

AVCAL’s submission to the future Financial System Inquiry slated for 2014.
(Credit: AVCAL)

The Australian government’s Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos passed through a raft of taxation and superannuation adjustments into law over the weekend, but set aside two measures in a wider range of reforms that would have made it easier for Australian startups to grow.

One of the measures dismissed would have allowed new businesses engaged in research and development to claim tax credits quarterly. This would have helped cash flow for startups that struggle to make it to the end of their first reporting period for tax credits, which can be as long as 16 months.

The other denied measure that could have directly influenced startup success was a lowering of the Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCLP) requirement from AU$10 milion to AU$5 million, and combining both early stage and general venture capital partnerships.

The Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (AVCAL), representing Australia’s venture capital industry members, said the two reforms would have been a boon for startups and investors alike. “Abandoning these reforms is a major setback for Australia’s innovation agenda,” said AVCAL’s CEO, Yasser El-Ansary.

“These reforms would not have a significant net cost to the budget bottom line; in fact these reforms would likely lead to more tax revenue over time as investment increases and businesses become more profitable more quickly.”

AVCAL will continue to push for the reforms to be passed. Until then, it says, Australia faces an “innovation deficit” that will impact future research and development and the success of Australian startups.

Study finds 5000-year-old Chinese cats and wild cat buried with a human nearly 10,000 years ago in Cyprus

Source: and National Geographic News

CHINESE farmers may have domesticated cats more than 5000 years ago to protect their grain stores from rodents.

Scientists have traced evidence of a close relationship between humans and cats in the ancient village of Quanhucin, Shaanxi province.

Analysis of bones from at least two cats shows they preyed on grain-eating animals, probably rodents.

One of the cats had survived to an old age living in the village, while another had a diet suggesting it had scavenged human food or been fed.

At the same time, remains of an ancient rodent burrow into a grain storage pit, and the rodent-proof design of grain pots, indicated that rats and mice posed a serious problem for Quanhucin farmers.

“At least three different lines of scientific inquiry allow us to tell a story about cat domestication,” said Professor Fiona Marshall from the University of Washington.

“Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored.

“Results of this study show that the village of Quanhucin was a source of food for the cats 5300 years ago, and the relationship between humans and cats was commensal, or advantageous for the cats.

“Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, our evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits.”

Previous evidence suggested they were first domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were kept some 4000 years ago.

More recent findings point to a much earlier association with humans, including the discovery of a wild cat buried with a human nearly 10,000 years ago in Cyprus.

The research is published online in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences.


Oldest Known Pet Cat? 9,500-Year-Old Burial Found on Cyprus

Since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, cats have been cherished as companions, worshipped as idols, and kept as agents of pest control and good luck. But now French archaeologists have found evidence that our close relationship with cats may have begun much earlier.

The carefully interred remains of a human and a cat were found buried with seashells, polished stones, and other decorative artifacts in a 9,500-year-old grave site on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. This new find, from the Neolithic village of Shillourokambos, predates early Egyptian art depicting cats by 4,000 years or more.

Jean-Denis Vigne, an archaeologist with the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and colleagues describe the find in tomorrow’s edition of the research journal Science. The researchers write that the joint burial indicates a strong association between the human and cat and that the feline is possibly the world’s oldest known pet cat.

“The process and timing of cat domestication has been terrifically difficult to document,” said Melinder Zeder, a curator of Old World archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and president of the International Council for Archaeozoology.

“In the absence of a collar around its neck, the deliberate interment of this animal with a human makes a strong case that cats had a special place in the daily lives, and in the afterlives, of residents of Shillourokambos,” Zeder said.

Spiritual Significance

Most early evidence of cat domestication comes from ancient Egypt. Some experts believe that the Egyptians may have tamed and bred felines to produce a distinct species by the 20th or 19th century B.C.

Cats are frequently represented in Egyptian mythology in the form of the feline goddesses Bastet, Sekhmet, and other deities. Cat art and mummified remains are known from as far back as 4,000 years ago.

But researchers have also stumbled across hints that cats were domesticated much earlier. Experts have found 10,000-year-old engravings and pottery that depict cats dating to the Neolithic period (late Stone Age), Vigne said. He notes such finds provide evidence that, even then, cats had a spiritual significance.

More recently, cat jawbones and other remains not directly linked to human burials have revealed that wild cats were at least associated with early Neolithic settlements on Cyprus, Vigne said.

Cats are not native to Cyprus, an island 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of mainland Turkey. Given that fact, researchers behind today’s announcement write that humans must have introduced cats to the island. Whether or not early peoples domesticated the species remains unclear, the researchers write, noting that foxes were also introduced at the same time.

Together Forever

Zeder, the Smithsonian curator, notes that the difficulty in determining precisely when cats were first domesticated is that cats were likely “commensal domesticates.” The phrase describes animals like mice, rats, sparrows, and early dogs, among others, that weren’t raised by people but nonetheless were attracted to human habitations.

Such animals feed on stored food or trash or they prey on other commensals. Which is why finding cat remains in or near ancient human settlements doesn’t necessarily imply the animals had been adopted as pets.

To complicate the issue, domestic cats are physically very similar to their wild counterparts and cannot easily be distinguished on that basis, said Zeder, who also serves on the board of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.

“What makes this [new] find special, is [the cat’s] intentional placement with a human burial,” Zeder said.

The cat and human remains described in today’s announcement were unearthed in 2001. The grave also contained offerings such as ochre and flint tools, axes, and seashells.

A combination of factors is seen as evidence that the cat and human were intentionally buried together including the good state of preservation of both remains, the burial of an entire cat without any signs of butchering, and the proximity of the skeletons—just 40 centimeters (16 inches) apart. Analysis suggests that the cat was just eight months old at death and was possibly killed in order to be buried alongside the human.

“The first discovery of cat bones on Cyprus showed that human beings brought cats from the mainland to the islands. But we couldn’t decide if these cats were wild or tame,” said study author Vigne. “With this discovery, we can now decide that cats were linked with humans.”

He notes that wild cats may have been drawn to settlements where grain stores attracted rats and mice. Perhaps people soon realized they could perhaps use the felines to control these pests.

Domestication Experiments

Cats may have been one of many animals “intentionally transported to Cyprus as some kind of gamestocking plan,” Zeder said, noting that the research by Vigne and his colleagues reveals that many non-native wild animals—including pigs, goats, deer, and cattle—were transported to Cyprus “on a kind of Noah’s ark.”

The scientists’ findings also reveal that the residents of the ancient village of Shillourokambos were beginning domestication experiments with many such livestock species.

“[Perhaps] it’s not surprising to find evidence of taming cats and their habituation with human settlements at such an early date,” Zeder added. “What’s really surprising is that we haven’t seen more of this kind of association at an earlier time.”

In contrast to cats, intentional burials of dogs and puppies with humans occurred earlier and have been more common in the archaeological record. The earliest are known from the Natufian stage, 12,000 years ago in Israel.

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