Eva-Maria Geigl (She/Her)

Head of research, French National Research Center CNRS
  • France

About Eva-Maria Geigl

I am a paleogeneticist interested in genome evolution of animals (humans included) from the Upper Pleistocene to the Middle Ages. With my group, we are reconstructing population dynamics and phylogenetics of wild animal populations (bison, aurochs, equids and cats) and elucidating the domestication processes of cattle and cats. We also pursue an archaeogenetic research line in that we study the peopling of Europe since the Upper Palaeolithic to the end of the Neolithic. Finally, we are interested in investigating the emergence and evolution of zoonotic diseases and the selection pressure exerted on the human and animal populations involved.

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Of cats and men

Today cats are everywhere, but how did they get there? Little is known about their domestication and conquest of the world. Archeology and modern cat genetics have indicated likely South West Asian and Northern African origins, with abundant ancient Egyptian iconography depicting cats alongside humans. The timing and origins of the domestication events, however, were not clear. Analyzing the ancient DNA of hundreds of archeological samples from the Mesolithic (roughly 9,000 years ago) to 19th century in Europe, South West Asia and Africa, we could trace back the human-mediated translocation of cats from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. We also identified the origin of the two major maternal lineages of present-day domestic cats, one originating in the Near East when the Neolithic spread to Europe, and the other in Egypt when cats spread throughout the Ancient World during Classical Antiquity, perhaps accompanying traders and soldiers on board ships.

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