Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Cat in Ancient Egypt

This blog is about all things related to the product assortment of archaeform; today it’s all about cats in Ancient Egypt.

A bronze statue of the cat goddess Bastet

Cats are special beings and enchant us with their beauty, their independence of mind and their intelligence. With 600 million animals sharing our households with us worldwide they are the most popular pet. According to latest genetic and archaeological research all domesticated cats descend from the African wild cat. Domestication began 10.000 years ago in the Near East, the same region where sedentarism and agriculture had their origins. The cat took a very important role in Ancient Egypt. There they were extremely popular as hunters of rodents such as rats and mice, but also of snakes in living quarters and storage spaces, they were also utilised in bird hunting. House cats are attested since the Middle Kingdom (c. 2nd century BC). Next to the domestic cat in Egypt lived the aggressive wild cat.

A mummified cat

Both characters are found in Egyptian mythology: on the one hand the peaceable cat goddess Bastet, responsible for love, happiness and feasts; on the other hand the destructive and raging goddess Sakhmet. These opposites which can be found in the cat goddesses are mirrored in the daily fight for the maintenance of order against chaos – an ever-present motif in the Ancient Egyptian mindscape. Cats were sacred animals, they got sacrificed and mummified. The town of Bubastis in the Nile delta was her main cultic site. Here there are temples of Bastet where she is depicted either as cat or as human being with lion or cat head.

A bronze statue of a domesticated cat and her kitten