Monday, January 25, 2010

In the field: More re temple of the cat goddess

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

During routine excavations near the Roman theatre at Kom El-Dikka in Alexandria, an archaeological mission from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has discovered the remains of a temple built by Queen Berenike, wife of Ptolemy III (246-222 BC), along with a cachette of 600 Ptolemaic statues. The temple is believed to measure 60 metres by 15 metres and extends underneath the present Ismail Fahmi Street.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, says the temple was much destroyed in later centuries when it was used as a source of worked stone, which led to the disappearance of many of its components.

Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the antiquities of Lower Egypt, said the team, which comprises 18 skilled excavators and restorers, unearthed a large collection of statues depicting the cat goddess Bastet, the goddess of protection and motherhood, which indicates that the temple was dedicated to this popular Delta goddess.

National Geographic (photos)

Thanks to Andrew Bossone for forwarding the above link which has six good photos of finds from the site. Here's the accompanyint text:

This limestone feline is among some 600 cat statues from a newfound temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet. The ancient temple was recently discovered under the streets of modern-day Alexandria, Egypt.

Egyptian archaeologists who found the temple say it was built by Queen Berenike II, wife of Greek King Ptolemy III, who ruled Egypt from 246 to 221 B.C.

Cats were important house pets in ancient Egypt and were often depicted in private tombs. In some cases, cats were mummified in the same way as humans and buried at temples.

"This is one of the most important discoveries in Alexandria in the last hundred years," said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of antiquities of Lower Egypt for the Supreme Council of Antiquities and lead archaeologist for the find.

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