The feline to which the word su-a might
have referred. Otherwise known as
Felis silvestris ornata.
Illustration ca. 1830–1832 by
Thomas Hardwicke, in volume I
of Illustrations of Indian Zoology.
Public domain image,
via Wikimedia Commons.
Today I, Miss Cuddlywumps, am writing a short post as a public service to teach you how to say one word in an ancient language you have probably never heard of and will never use. Why? Because you never know when a bit of seemingly useless knowledge will come in handy. So here goes.
If for any reason you need to say cat in Old Babylonian, the word is (or was) su-a. Old Babylonian was a language of central and southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq, roughly) in the period 1900–1500 BC. According to our sources, the word su-a seems to refer to a local wildcat, rather than to any sort of domestic cat. It is possible (though not proven, so far as we know) that some of these wildcats became tame or at least tolerant of humans as they hung around granaries catching rodents. It is even possible that the ancient Near East was a secondary area of cat domestication, and some claim this area as the primary area of cat domestication.
I remind you that, so far as we know as of this writing, Egypt was the main center of domestication, and there is evidence of domestic cats dating back to 3,700 BC and of human-cat interactions (not necessarily domestication) from even earlier—about 4,000 BC in Egypt and about 7,500 BC on Cyprus. It will be interesting to see if further evidence of cats in ancient Babylon comes to light.
Until then, you can impress your friends with your knowledge of an ancient language. Also you can name your next cat Su-a, if you are so inclined. You're welcome.