Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hawass Dig Days - Bastet the cat

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

Tel Basta is an archaeological site in the city of Zagazig, in Sharqiya governorate. It was very important in ancient times because it was sacred to a goddess called Bastet, who took the form of a cat. Beginning in the Old Kingdom, several kings built temples there dedicated to Bastet. A large cemetery for cats was also found at the site.

When the ancient Egyptians worshipped an animal, they did not worship each individual one in itself. They worshipped what the animals represented -- they saw cleverness and wisdom, for instance, in the ibis and the baboon, and so they honoured these animals as representatives of Thoth, the god of wisdom.

We say in Egypt that cats have seven souls, and it seems that we have learnt this from the Pharaohs. Bastet was found at many sites other than Tel Basta. The most important was the site of Saqqara, where tombs that are now known as the "doors of the cats" were discovered. Thousands of mummified felines dating to the Late Period were buried there. Alain Zivie, a French archaeologist, cleared the remains of the cats and found that the tombs were actually unique burial places for high officials of the New Kingdom. One of these tombs belonged to Aperia, who was prime minister under Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty, the father of Akhenaten.

See the above page for more.

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