Cat wearing jetpack in 16th century drawing baffles historians

Some drawings prepared for a German prince who was trying to squash a peasant uprising in 1530 were recently digitized by the University of Pennsylvania. After catching the attention of an Australian book blog they made their way to researcher Mitch Fraas. Faced with the 500-year-old drawings, he confronted the damndest thing: They feature cats wearing jetpacks.

“I really didn’t know what to make of it,” said Fraas, a historian Penn library. “It clearly looks like there’s some sort of jet of fire coming out of a device strapped to these animals.”

It turns out the artist in question was indeed proposing jetpacks as a weaponized defense strategy. But instead of a 16th century version of Iron Man, he was proposing turning the cats themselves into weapons.

The idea was set forth by artillery man Franz Helm, who had apparently seen action in Turkey and witnessed first-hand the power of gunpowder. His idea went like this: Rather than try to lay siege to a castle or otherwise protected town, you could simply kidnap a cat, attach a jetpack to its back, set it on fire nearby and release the cat, which would run back home in its panic wearing the jetpack and set the whole town on fire.

“Sort of a harebrained scheme,” says Frass, with the benefit of 500 years of hindsight. “It seems like a really terrible idea, and very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from. More likely they’d set your own camp on fire.”

Probably true. But you have to give Franz Helm credit for thinking ahead of his time. Incidentally, the drawing was created just 15 years from when Albrecht Dürer famously drew a rhinoceros with startling accuracy having never seen one, based only on a written description.

Must have been something in the air. No word whether any drawings have been recovered of sharks with fricking laser beams attached to their heads.

Image/ source: Guardian