But if you think that modern folks are cat-crazy you should have been around in Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians had Bastet and Sekhmet among other feline deities, and cats were even held in higher regard than men, drawing from the fact that harming a cat was an act punishable by death. Our site includes quite a bit of content, so if you're having an issue finding what you're looking for, go on ahead and use that search feature there! Because domestic cats were known for their mysterious and secretive nature and also possessed an ability to see in the dark, Bast and all her earthly manifestations came to be associated with the Underworld―the realm of the dead. In ancient egypt, every big city supported one favorite god, similar to people who support football teams today. Here, in an accidental recovery in 1888, an Egyptian farmer stumbled upon thousands and thousands of cat mummies, buried underneath the desert sands. According to James Allen Baldwin, cats are present in Egypt’s archaeological record as far back as the predynastic period, almost 5,000 years ago. Egyptians believed cats were magical creatures, capable of bringing good luck to the people who housed them. While all the other ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses are depicted in the form of big cats―mainly lions―only Goddess Bast was represented as a domestic cat. Cats may have existed then, welcomed in the households, and fed and nurtured. Her role in the ancient Egyptian culture earned more importance than the goddess Mafdet over the years. Find vets, rescue teams, shops and pet services in your local area. Owing to the rising importance of the city, the cult of Bast also became increasingly popular throughout the land. Facts about Egyptian Cats 4: the role of Bast. Buy, sell and adopt puppies, dogs, cats and other animals. According to Herodotus, the population of cats in and around the temple of Bubastis was so large that, in order to control it, these felines were regularly sacrificed to the goddess. Hartwig wants to make one thing clear, though: Egyptians did not worship cats, but they did believe that cats held a bit of divine energy within them. Pets for Sale in Egypt. Cats in ancient Egypt were represented in social and religious practices of ancient Egypt for more than 3,000 years. Whereas cats were an object of reverence, the most widely found pet in pet friendly Egypt was the dog. Women also favored cats as companions much the way modern people today look to pets for companionship. As a sign of mourning, the cat owners shaved off their eyebrows, and continued to mourn until their eyebrows grew back. Middle Eastern species of cats were domesticated in Egypt about 10,000 years ago and while various other animals were also considered sacred, cats had a special status among those animals. Cats began to appear on objects, such as jewelry, clothing, mirror handles, etc. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/cats-rule-in-ancient-egypt.html. Today, we know how highly cats were respected because of the mourning practices when they died and the mummification of cats. Moreover, various DNA comparisons also suggest that many species of modern cats may have been descended from the Egyptian wildcat (Felis silvestris catus). The punishment for killing or harming (even accidentally) even a stray cat in Egypt was death. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. In the absence of enough evidence, it is rather difficult to estimate exactly when cats began to be domesticated, but we know for sure that the ancient Egyptians did have pet cats. However, she became Bastet, when she was portrayed fully as a cat. I've written similar, attempting to accommodate the constraint of our style, but I am imagining something is firing correctly today may have an improvement. Cats likely became so entwined with Egyptian life for practical reasons: Agriculture attracted rodents, which attracted wild cats. The Egyptians worshiped a huge pantheon of gods and goddesses, with the inclusion of various sacred animals. “I am fascinated by cats,” Amr Mohamed, an 11-year-old boy said. Bast was known as the goddess of motherhood and fertility. The ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, who traveled to Ancient Egypt, has mentioned in one of his travelogues about the importance of domesticated cats. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Next time you see a cat, think about its connection to ancient Egypt. However, the culmination of the cult came about only by the 8th century BCE, when Sheshonq I (or Sheshonq I), the founder of the Twenty-second Dynasty developed Bubastis into an important city. Genetic analysis has revealed, however, that even if cats were found outside of Egypt, that the Egyptians were the ones to officially domesticate wild, feral cats into what we have today. The jungle cat (Felis chaus) and the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). In a battle between Persians and Egyptians, the former captured a large number of cats to use them against the latter. The Cat in Ancient Egypt is an informative and entertaining work that will delight cat lovers and history buffs alike. Ancient Egyptian relief in Edfu Temple ( Wikimedia Commons ) These cats, however, were not as cats appear today—at least not at first. In ancient Egypt, there were two different primary breeds: one the fierce jungle cats, the other the more peaceful African wildcats. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. Even when a pet cat died, elaborate funerary rituals were held in its honor, and the entire family would go into deep mourning. Several archaeological remains point towards the domestication of cats in Ancient Egypt. View Images An Egyptian cat mummy. Cats were a popular pet in ancient Egypt and closely associated with the goddess Bastet (also known as Bast) who appears in Egyptian art with the body of a woman and the head of a cat or as a sitting cat in a regal pose. The latter had a calmer temperament and so was more commonly domesticated than its wilder relative. You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. One woman is working to help save them. Owing to this, the cult’s reach and popularity declined to a great extent. Though they are no longer worshiped in the manner they used to be, cats are still loved the world over as pets and for their mouse-hunting skills. Cats, however, occupied a special space in Ancient Egypt. She also protected humans from venomous animals, and since venomous creatures, such as snakes and scorpions were (and are) in abundance in the Egyptian desert, the goddess had an important place in the pantheon. The most widespread belief was that domestic cats carried the divine essence of Bastet (or Bast), the cat-headed goddess who represented fertility, domesticity, music, dance and pleasure. Thousands of years after cats in the Near East caught on, a second wave of cats began cohabitating with humans in Egypt. If we consider lions as cats, the cult of the Lion-headed Goddess, Sekhmet, was prominent. What is surprising is that all these pet cats were never named, they were just cats. Ancient Cat in Today's Egypt Ancient Egyptians worshipped many animals for thousands of years. The trend among the ancient Egyptians to domesticate cats may have begun when they realized the potential of these felines in safeguarding their food supplies. Animals were revered for different reasons. All rights reserved. Upon its excavation, cats were among the first things that the scientists noticed. Ancient Egyptians worshipped many animals for thousands of years. Dec 6, 2019 - Our love affair goes way back . The internet is rife with cats: cat videos, cat memes, there are even celebrity cats! In the city of Per-Bast, a beautiful temple was built, and people came from all over to experience its splendor. Cat figurines were also placed outside houses and shrines, in order to ward off evil spirits. Later in Egyptian history, the goddess Bastet (sometimes just “Bast”) replaced Mafdet as the feline goddess of choice. Herodotus wrote that in Ancient Egypt, the pet cat was considered as another member of the family. Cats were held in very high esteem by the ancient Egyptians. These cookies do not store any personal information. When the cats died, they were mummified. Located at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, the land of Egypt comprises hot, sandy deserts crossed by the ever-meandering Nile that constantly makes its way into the Mediterranean sea. December 6, 2007—Egyptian Maus may descend from the first domesticated cats in the world. Two major cat lineages contributed to the domestic feline we know today, they report in a study published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The Nile valley is one of the most fertile regions of the world, and it has been supporting human habitation since almost 9,000 years. Wooden and bronze statuettes of cats were also made and sold, especially for funerary purposes, but also sometimes for decorative purposes. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Bast was depicted as a young woman with a cat’s head. Sign up to receive the latest and greatest articles from our site automatically each week (give or take)...right to your inbox. It is absolutely fascinating how cats not only entered the common households of Ancient Egypt, but also occupied an important place in their religious realm. This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. The ancient Egyptian law forbade the killing of cats, except of course for sacrificial purposes. There were more than 300,000 mummified cats in the temple - further proved that they were sacred in ancient Egypt. The worship of cats in Egypt has been a topic of fascination for many cat owners and lovers. See more ideas about Ancient egypt, Cats in ancient egypt, Egypt. Cats were obviously important, and there were enormous cults, which revered these felines. According to Egyptian mythology, gods and goddesses had the power to transform themselves into different animals. Learn about how cats were honored in Ancient Egypt. Art from ancient Egypt shows statues and paintings of every type of feline. Even the export of cats was prohibited by law in Ancient Egypt, but they were often smuggled by Phoenician traders to be sold in the Mediterranean countries. Some Egyptian role models in dealing with animals Amr Mohamed feeding stray cats – Egypt Today/Hend Safwat Mercy doesn’t exist among adults only, but it also exists among children as well. On this land, some 7,000 years ago, a mighty civilization rose, and attained such a height that we can only but admire it. Bastet’s feline associations began to change around the same time as cats (known as miu or miit—he, or she, who mews) were being domesticated in Egypt… The two species eventually merged creating a new breed which was closely related to the modern Egyptian Mau. Slowly and steadily, as the cult flourished even beyond Bubastis, the cat became a very important and common, sacred motif. But opting out of some of these cookies may have an effect on your browsing experience. In a battle between Persians and Egyptians, the former captured a large number of cats to use them against the latter. Several ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility and power. But, they were also held in high esteem for their aloofness and mysterious characteristics. The presence of tabby cats in ancient Egypt is further supported by a recent genetic study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. She was the goddess of the home, domesticity, women's secrets, cats, fertility, and childbirth. Dogs were valued for their ability to protect and hunt, but cats were thought to be the most special. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. Egyptian god Ra and goddess Bastet looked at the world through the cat eyes, and people could make their prayers heard via cats. Bubastis, situated on the east of the Nile Delta, was a major center for the worship of Bast. We hope you enjoy this website. Safe Haven Egypt is a volunteer-run cat sanctuary that has been operating in Cairo since 2015. In this study … The ancient Egyptians have left a huge legacy of their material remains, which has helped us understand numerous interesting aspects of their life and culture. Owing to this, cats came to be regarded as protectors of evil by the ancient Egyptians, and were domesticated by them. The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat. Bastet was extremely popular throughout Egypt with b… Cats were so special that those who killed them, even by accident, were sentenced to death. Though hard for many people to believe, cats would often join … The sanctity of felines in Egypt’s ancient times traces back to the belief that these animals have divine powers given by Bastet herself. Cat, as a divinity, then came to be associated with fertility and motherhood, alongside her older domain of protection against evil. In fact, all the cats were considered to be the manifestations of Bast, who was, in turn, their protector. Located at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, the land of Egypt comprises hot, sandy deserts crossed by the ever-meandering Nile that constantly makes its way into the Me… We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. The cult of the cat, as it was known, was functional in Egypt right since the 16th century BCE. Although it has been commonly accepted that cats were first domesticated in Egypt 4000 years ago, their history among human beings goes back much further. Cats are traditionally believed to have been domesticated in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom (c. 1950 B.C.E.). Cats were called Mau in Ancient Egypt, and initially the animals attained an important place as the protectors of the country’s grain, as they killed rodents and snakes. In 390 CE, cat worship in Egypt was officially banned by the Roman empire. These, according to archaeologists, were apparently domesticated cats, as people would not otherwise take trouble to go in the wild, look for dead cats, and mummify them. I do not own the content of this video all credit goes to National Geographic. Dogs were valued for their ability to protect and hunt, but cats were thought to be the most special. This shows how important the cat was for the ancient Egyptians. However, the Egyptian Pharaohs sent their soldiers to recapture their cats. How Ancient Egypt’s beloved cats helped our feline friends colonise the planet. 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