Blog Cats in ancient Egypt, scenes from the tombs.EgypTravel4you-Info

March 4, 2019by admin0

Bastet the cat ancient Egypt

Cats in ancient Egypt were represented in social and religious practices of Ancient Egypt for more than 30 centuries. Several Ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility, and power.

The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat.

Cats were praised for killing venomous snakes and protecting the Pharaoh since at least the First Dynasty of Egypt. Skeletal remains of cats were found among funerary goods dating to the 12th Dynasty.

The protective function of cats is indicated in the Book of the Dead, where a cat represents Ra and the benefits of the sun for life on Earth. Cat-shaped decorations used during the New Kingdom of Egypt indicate that the cat cult became more popular in daily life.

Cats were depicted in association with the name of Bastet.

Bastet the cat ancient Egypt

In the late 1880s, more than 200,000 mummified animals, most of the cats, were found in the cemetery of Beni Hasan in central Egypt.

Among the mummified animals excavated in Gizeh, the African wildcat (Felis lybica) is the most common cat followed by the jungle cat (Felis chaus).

In view of the huge number of cat mummies found in Egypt, the cat cult was certainly important for the country’s economy, as it required breeding of cats and a trading network for the supply of food, oils, and resins for embalming them.

If we turn to the less well-known record of Egyptian tomb paintings, however, we find cats of a distinctly different appearance.

The facsimile image below presents a cat with a distinctively tabby coat from the walls of the Tomb of Sennedjem at the site of Deir el-Medina in Upper Egypt.

The fantastical nature of the image with the cat decapitating a serpent using a blade is an often-repeated visual reference to The Egyptian Book of the Dead; wherein a cat is depicted defeating the divine enemy of the sun god.


Cat Killing a Serpent, Tomb of Sennedjem, Egyptian, Deir el Madina

An image from the Tomb of Nakht, Thebes, Upper Egypt, presents us with a decidedly more domestic scene of another tabby cat. This cat feasts upon a fish as it sits underneath the chairs of its human companions.

This pattern of cats with tabby coats continues throughout Egyptian mural art, thereby presenting a very different image from the austere black cat suggested by statuary.


Tomb of Nakht, eats a fish, Egyptian, New Kingdom,

Cat and other animals seated under a chair, Tomb of Anen, Egyptian, New Kingdom,

The iconic image of an Egyptian cat arises from objects such as the leaded bronze statuette from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, pictured below.

Numerous statuettes such as this were made during Ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic and Late periods as vessels to hold the mummified remains of domesticated cats.

The commonality of this form and the dark coloration of the metal lends to the popular impression of ancient Egyptian cats as black-furred.


Cat Statuette intended to contain a mummified Cat, Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period,
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