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Mummy of a Cat

Place of production Egypt
Date 4th-1st centuries B.C.
Object type organic remains
Medium, technique Animal mummy; linen

length: 21 cm

Inventory number 87.8-E
Collection Egyptian Art
On view This artwork is not on display

The first records of the Egyptians’ domestication of cats are dated relatively late to the period of the Middle Kingdom. However, following this, numerous depictions testify to its popularity. In religious beliefs, the cat, which hunts rodents and reptiles, was ascribed the role of warding off evil. It can be seen grasping a snake in its paw on ivory amulets which were designed to provide protection to children in the Middle Kingdom. In the period of the New Kingdom, this role had already taken on a cosmic dimension. In Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, the god Re himself appears in the form of a cat, and with an enormous knife, he renders his enemy – the giant Apophis serpent, who is threatening the cosmic order – harmless.
In later periods, the offering of mummified animals assumed major importance: people sought the intercession of the deity through the souls of the sacred animals in the hope that their requests would be heard and granted. Huge cemeteries with thousands of mummified cats were discovered in every important cultic centre of the country (Bubastis, Saqqara, Abydos, Thebes, etc.) during the last two centuries.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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