Mummified cat

unknown30 BC-90 AD

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum

The intricate wrappings and painted detail on the face of this mummified cat are typical of the Ptolemaic period, a time when animal cemeteries of all types abounded. This is a particularly good example, complete and virtually undamaged. Evidence suggests that cats were already being mummified around 1350 BC, but simply as a beloved pet, rather than a manifestation of the goddess Bastet, as in later times. Thousands of cats have been unearthed in several cemeteries, the majority dating from the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC). The animals were kept in temple precincts and mummified at death for pilgrims to present as votive offerings in the temples. The cat cemeteries near the temple of Bastet date from around 900 BC and may represent the earliest large animal cemeteries. Other animal mummies include cattle, lions, crocodiles, rams, dogs, baboons, ichneumons (Egyptian mongooses), ibises, falcons, shrewmice, snakes and fish. Modern x-rays of cat mummies reveal a less than perfect situation for these temple cats - many show a broken neck as the cause of death and at a very young age. Presumably, a large influx of pilgrims for a religious holiday would demand a large number of mummified cats for votive offerings. The selling of these would help with the temple economy.

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  • Title: Mummified cat
  • Creator: unknown
  • Date: 30 BC-90 AD
  • Location: Egypt
  • Physical Dimensions: w13 x d13 cm
  • Type: Mummy
  • Medium: Cat, mummified, wrapped in linen and painted
  • Period: Roman Imperial period
  • Length: 51
  • Accession Number: 910.169.1

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