(CNN)Cats may have been pets for Kazakh pastoralists along the Silk Road over 1,000 years ago, a new study said.
Tests on a cat skeleton found along the Silk Road in southern Kazakhstan revealed that cats may have been pets for nomadic herders in the area, according to a study published last week in the Scientific Reports journal.
It's rare to find an almost complete cat skeleton, which allowed researchers to analyze the bones to see how the cat lived, according to Ashleigh Haruda, study lead and a postdoctoral research scientist at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany.
"While some ancient older civilisations such as Egypt and Rome kept cats as pets, we don't know much about cats outside of those times and places," Haruda said. "So this find is helping us fill in the picture that gives us a more complete picture about how people treated animals in the past."
Claudio Ottoni, a post-doctoral researcher at the Sapienza University of Rome, worked on another study that focused on the origin of domestic cats in Eastern Africa. The cat skeleton remains found along the Silk Road are rare and represent the earliest evidence of domestic cat remains in that region, he said.
"Cats have been widely overlooked for a long time because their remains in archaeological contexts are rare," Ottoni said. "Plus, their identification based on osteological evidence is often not easy."
Osteology, the study of bones, tells the story of an animal's life, and this cat's skeleton had plenty to say.
"The bones don't just tell us what animal it was, but also tell us a number of other things, such as its ancestry (through ancient DNA) and its diet (through chemical isotope analysis)," Haruda said via email.