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. Here, in an accidental recovery in 1888, an Egyptian farmer stumbled upon thousands and thousands of cat mummies, buried underneath the desert sands. View Images An Egyptian cat mummy. 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. I do not own the content of this video all credit goes to National Geographic. Women also favored cats as companions much the way modern people today look to pets for companionship. 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. Ancient Egyptians worshipped many animals for thousands of years. Because cats could protect against the tiny monsters that made Egyptian homes unsafe, Mafdet was regarded as the protector of the home– and of the kingdom itself! December 6, 2007—Egyptian Maus may descend from the first domesticated cats in the world. To honor these treasured pets, wealthy families dressed them in jewels and fed them treats fit for royalty. Moreover, the men of the household would shave their eyebrows to express their sorrow. Whereas cats were an object of reverence, the most widely found pet in pet friendly Egypt was the dog. Later in Egyptian history, the goddess Bastet (sometimes just “Bast”) replaced Mafdet as the feline goddess of choice. Unfortunately the most are abandoned and homeless, they are treated badly by the owners or the bystanders. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Cats were held in very high esteem by the ancient Egyptians. But opting out of some of these cookies may have an effect on your browsing experience. Several archaeological remains point towards the domestication of cats in Ancient Egypt. Herodotus wrote that in Ancient Egypt, the pet cat was considered as another member of the family. Though hard for many people to believe, cats would often join … Cat wasn’t the only sacred animal in Egypt. The Best History Museums to Virtually Tour During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Virtual Reality Experiences That Let You See History Up Close, The Most Accurate Movies Based on History Worth Seeing, Subaru History: How the Japanese Manufacturer Become World-Famous, Porsche History: From Humble Beginnings to High-Powered Luxury, How to Become a History Teacher: A Brief Guide to the Responsibilities and Requirements, Houston History: From Independence to the Modern Day. Pets for Sale in Egypt. 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. Two major cat lineages contributed to the domestic feline we know today, they report in a study published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Art from ancient Egypt shows statues and paintings of every type of feline. The presence of tabby cats in ancient Egypt is further supported by a recent genetic study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. One woman is working to help save them. Even when a pet cat died, elaborate funerary rituals were held in its honor, and the entire family would go into deep mourning. Copyright © Historyplex & Buzzle.com, Inc. Slowly and steadily, as the cult flourished even beyond Bubastis, the cat became a very important and common, sacred motif. There were two main breeds of cat native to Ancient Egypt. This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. 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. The ancient Egyptians admired cats for their friendly, playful, and intelligent traits. But if you think that modern folks are cat-crazy you should have been around in Ancient Egypt. 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. She was the goddess of the home, domesticity, women's secrets, cats, fertility, and childbirth. 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. Owing to this, cats came to be regarded as protectors of evil by the ancient Egyptians, and were domesticated by them. Seeing their revered felines running haphazardly across the battlefield, the Egyptians chose to surrender, rather than killing the cats. Today cats can be seen throughout Egypt, wandering in bazaars or asleep in shaded courtyards, evidence of an enduring relationship with humans that this book warmly captures. Cats may have existed then, welcomed in the households, and fed and nurtured. Ancient Egyptian cats had a sacred status in because of the religious beliefs of Egyptian society. Cats in ancient Egypt were mummified and buried in large quantities, hence held a special place in the culture of Ancient Egypt. Bast was known as the cat goddess in Egypt. As a sign of mourning, the cat owners shaved off their eyebrows, and continued to mourn until their eyebrows grew back. When the cats died, they were mummified. 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. 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. Facts about egyptian cats 7: One of the civilization’s figures of worship, bastet, was known as the cat goddess. Cats likely became so entwined with Egyptian life for practical reasons: Agriculture attracted rodents, which attracted wild cats. 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. This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Besides these graceful hunters, Egyptians also considered sacred black bulls, falcons, crocodiles, jackals, ibises, sheep and some other animals and birds. 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. These cookies do not store any personal information. Fittingly, a bust of Sakhmet is the first object that greets visitors as they enter "Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt," an exhibition of Egyptian cat … Owing to the cat’s status as a guardian, it was then regarded as the sacred guardian of the Underworld. Archaeologists suggest that the ancient Egyptians may have developed a sort of symbiotic relationship with wildcats, which hunted down all the threats to supplies of food. Ancient Egyptian relief in Edfu Temple ( Wikimedia Commons ) These cats, however, were not as cats appear today—at least not at first. On this land, some 7,000 years ago, a mighty civilization rose, and attained such a height that we can only but admire it. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. Cats began to appear on objects, such as jewelry, clothing, mirror handles, etc. We hope you enjoy this website. Sign up to receive the latest and greatest articles from our site automatically each week (give or take)...right to your inbox. Their pyramids and mummies have always been the subjects of awe. Most tomb paintings representing household scenes have depictions of cats either playing, feeding, or just resting. This Historyplex post attempts to shed some light on the significance of cats in Ancient Egypt. Her role in the ancient Egyptian culture earned more importance than the goddess Mafdet over the years. 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… This shows how important the cat was for the ancient Egyptians. The deity Mut was also depicted as a cat and in the company of a cat. 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. However, she became Bastet, when she was portrayed fully as a cat. The sanctity of felines in Egypt’s ancient times traces back to the belief that these animals have divine powers given by Bastet herself. Several ancient Egyptian deities were depicted and sculptured with cat-like heads such as Mafdet, Bastet and Sekhmet, representing justice, fertility and power. How Ancient Egypt’s beloved cats helped our feline friends colonise the planet. She was a warrior goddess, who led the pharaohs in warfare. 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. Owing to this, the cult’s reach and popularity declined to a great extent. Ancient Egyptians worshipped many animals for thousands of years. All rights reserved. They Loyally Join Along in Activities. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. 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. 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. If we consider lions as cats, the cult of the Lion-headed Goddess, Sekhmet, was prominent. Today, we know how highly cats were respected because of the mourning practices when they died and the mummification of cats. Seeing their revered felines running haphazardly across the battlefield, the Egyptians chose to surrender, rather than killing the cats. The Egyptians worshiped a huge pantheon of gods and goddesses, with the inclusion of various sacred animals. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/cats-rule-in-ancient-egypt.html. In fact, all the cats were considered to be the manifestations of Bast, who was, in turn, their protector. The cult of the cat, as it was known, was functional in Egypt right since the 16th century BCE. Thousands of years after cats in the Near East caught on, a second wave of cats began cohabitating with humans in Egypt. Bast was depicted as a young woman with a cat’s head. Cat figurines were also placed outside houses and shrines, in order to ward off evil spirits. Cats were obviously important, and there were enormous cults, which revered these felines. 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. Bastet was extremely popular throughout Egypt with b… Only one deity, the goddess named Bastet, had the power to become a cat. 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. Cats were so special that those who killed them, even by accident, were sentenced to death. Facts about Egyptian Cats 4: the role of Bast. As far as native cats in Egypt there are two main breeds, one is the jungle cat which is called the Felis Chaus, and the other is the African wildcat. What is surprising is that all these pet cats were never named, they were just cats. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. Cats were so special that those who killed them, even by accident, were sentenced to death. Cat, as a divinity, then came to be associated with fertility and motherhood, alongside her older domain of protection against evil. The internet is rife with cats: cat videos, cat memes, there are even celebrity cats! Dec 6, 2019 - Our love affair goes way back . There is ample historical and archaeological evidence to show that the cat was, indeed, an integral part of a standard ancient Egyptian household. Egyptian god Ra and goddess Bastet looked at the world through the cat eyes, and people could make their prayers heard via cats. Dogs were valued for their ability to protect and hunt, but cats were thought to be the most special. 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. 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! 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. According to Egyptian mythology, gods and goddesses had the power to transform themselves into different animals. Moreover, various DNA comparisons also suggest that many species of modern cats may have been descended from the Egyptian wildcat (Felis silvestris catus). Their corpses were then mummified and sold to pilgrims as relics. A mummified cat is one of the grave goods that has been abundantly found in tombs, especially of nobility and the royalty. In a battle between Persians and Egyptians, the former captured a large number of cats to use them against the latter. But, they were also held in high esteem for their aloofness and mysterious characteristics. In a battle between Persians and Egyptians, the former captured a large number of cats to use them against the latter. Cats are traditionally believed to have been domesticated in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom (c. 1950 B.C.E.). The punishment for killing or harming (even accidentally) even a stray cat in Egypt was death. 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