Animals associated with deities were regularly mummified in the later periods of Egyptian history. The main concentration of cat burials was at sites with an association with a feline deity. The cat is associated with the goddess Bastet, whose cult centre was at Bubastis in the Delta, but there were other feline deities elsewhere in Egypt.

This cat was very elaborately wrapped, following a style which is common in the Greek and Roman periods in ancient Egypt. A lot of effort was frequently spent on the wrapping and external appearance, while the remains inside are often incomplete. It seems likely that many cats did not die a natural death; examination at The British Museum has shown many to have been aged less than one year old. Presumably a cull was made periodically in the temple catteries to provide subjects for mummification and sale to the pious.

The purchase and burial of an animal mummy in a specially designed catacomb was seen as a pious act towards the deity represented by the animal.

Unfortunately, many cat cemeteries were plundered before archaeologists could work in them: A shipment of as many as 180,000 mummified cats was brought to Britain at the end of the nineteenth century to be processed into fertiliser.


  • Title: Mummy of a cat
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 46.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1902,1011.97
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Abydos
  • Period/culture: Roman Period
  • Material: cat tissue; linen
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Egypt Exploration Fund

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps