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It should come as no surprise to learn that marine archaeologists studying the remains of a 3,500 year old shipwreck have discovered, embedded in the sediment, the jawbone of a mouse.

The Bronze Age ship, which sank off the coast of Turkey somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 B.C., carried cargo from many lands. The presence of ebony, ivory, silver, and gold — along with a golden scarab bearing the name of Egyptian queen Nefertiti — lead archaeologists to believe it was a royal vessel.

Being a royal ship, however, did not prevent rodents from stowing away. This particular rodent, as it turns out, was not one of the large ship rats that evolved after many generations of life at sea. Rather, scientists identified the jaw fragment as belonging to the species Mus musculus domesticus, the common house mouse. They believe the little pest probably crept on board shortly before the ship left port. The shape of the molars suggests that the mouse came from the northern Levantine coast, where there were several popular ports in antiquity. The finding, researchers say, demonstrates how mice spread all over the world.

As long as there have been ocean-going ships, mice have been stowing away and growing fat on stolen cargo.

As long as there have been humans, temptation has been sneaking into our lives, gnawing at our hearts and minds, growing as large and bold as we will let it.

As long as there has been social competition, whether it be on the playground or the political arena, there have been those who seek to distract attention from their own shortcomings by taking the low road of mocking others with ratty, derisive comments.

Unfortunately, we don’t need the fine sieve and close eye of an archaeologist to find evidence in abundance.

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