Historical information

Neutron scans from ANSTO reveal that only portion of the animal, probably a cat, was wrapped in the mummy. Preliminary reports of C14 dating indicates that it dates from about 600BCE. It was discovered in the 1850s in Egypt.

Many animals in ancient Egypt were deemed to represent a specific deity. Egyptologists have suggested that in the first millennium B.C. an act of popular piety was to place a mummified animal as a votive offering in a catacomb established at a cult center of that deity. Such an act may be expected to afford protection and bring good fortune. More recently, a close connection between the veneration of sacred animals and the worship of the king has been proposed, with the suggestion that these offerings were obligatory for religious officials and soldiers connected with certain royal cults. Interment of sacred animals was quite common in the Ptolemaic period (304-30 BCE) and continued well into the first half of the Roman period, or the second century CE. Cat cemeteries have been found throughout Egypt, and it is probably the Goddess, Bastet's association with her divine sisters in the wild, the malevolent Sakhmet and other lion-headed goddesses, that accounts for the presence of very large cat catacombs at Saqqara, Thebes, and Beni Hasan, where these leonine deities were particularly revered. There were several ways in which the cats were prepared for deposition; in the simplest cases the bodies were mummified and wrapped in linen strips, which were sometimes dyed different brown tones and woven to form geometric patterns. Usually the limbs were positioned close to the body, making a compact bundle but some mummies held lifelike poses.

Egyptians considered certain individual animals to be living manifestations of a god, such as, the Apis bull. Individuals were mummified when they died and buried for eternal life, then replaced by another single living manifestation. Research on animal mummies shows that the majority of mummies found at the large animal cemetery sites are pre-adults who were purposely killed for use, sometimes by breaking the neck. Some mummies are 'substitutes' containing only a few bones or feathers or possibly sticks or sand.

Physical description

Mummified cat remains.