Cats had a special place in ancient Egypt, they are revered, pampered and admired. Here’s everything you need to know about the domestication and worship of the cat in Egypt.
For thousands of years, the history of cats has been linked to our history. But as in all relationships, there have been ups and downs: over time, cats have been adored and persecuted, pampered and despised, and loved and hated. Today, the cat settles in many homes. But when is the history of this cat’s domestication? Why was it a place of worship in ancient Egypt? Let’s relive the history of the cat!
The first “domestication” of a cat
Since 2004 and from the excavations made by archaeologist Jean-Denis Fini in Cyprus, we know that The cat was “domesticated” at least 9,500 years ago. But this “domestication” did not happen all at once. I have known of several waves that spread over thousands of years and in many places on the globe.
The researchers analyzedDNA of more than two hundred cats, in remains dating from 9,000 years ago to the present day. Among these remains are Roman cats from antiquity, Egyptian cat mummies or contemporary specimens of African wild cats. According to their study, the “domestic” cats are not descended from the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), but from African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica), an animal still found in North Africa and southern Asia Minor.
Researchers can determine the evolution of “domestication” from evidence: the gene that codes for spots is only found in the “domesticated” cat. The wild cat coat is tabby exclusively. On the other hand, unlike the dog, the “domestication” of the cat did not have an actual effect on its appearance until the nineteenth century, when humans began to breed it and select some of them to create breeds (Egyptian Mau, Turkish Angora, Persian…).
Egyptian cat ancestors
The first cat ancestors scattered From Southwest Asia to Europe, more than 9000 years ago. They began to wander around the villages of the Fertile Crescent (covering parts of Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq), where they set up their headquarters with the men, in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Many representations of ancient Egypt prove that cats were present with humans at all times of their lives, not just as rodent hunters. On the walls of the tombs of Thebes, one could see cats lying under their master’s seat, gnawing at a bone or tasting a fish. A scene depicted on Nepamun’s tomb depicting a cat hunting with its master. The animal will drive out the teal hiding in the reeds on the banks of the Nile, which its human can then bring down with a kind of boomerang (we left that to the dogs later, too). There is an inscription indicating that King Mentuhotep II of Thebes had a favorite cat, another showing that Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III, cherished cats, and finally, Prince Thutmose’s cat was entitled to a wonderful sarcophagus for his funeral. In the fourth century BC. J-C, cat cemeteries are scattered, and many mummies are buried.
Cat worship in Egypt
The Egyptians revered cats Two gods, one lunar and the other solar. This duality was related to their ability to see day and night.
Bastet, the sacred cat, is a benevolent and friendly goddess who incarnates fertilized heat. She is also the goddess of the moon, she presides over births, nurtures happy births and protects the family. Female fertility and their maternal behavior are undoubtedly at the origin of this cult. Bastet, who was first depicted as a lioness, It takes the form of a cat from 1500 BC. Approximately The cat becomes his sacred animal. The cats were kept in his temple at Bubastis, located in the Nile Delta (a place known today as Tell Basta) and their behavior was carefully monitored and interpreted by priests who read the signs sent by the goddess there.
The cat has also been linked to Ra god of the sunOne of his names was Grand Mato. Great snake hunters, cats probably owe this ability to their association with prowess. In fact, they were in this worship Depicts raising large knives against snakes, and thus symbolizes the battle of the rise of the night. Later, Ra Associated with the god Amon In his temple in Heliopolis, sacred cats were bred. However, they paid a heavy price for this sect: Sixteen cemeteries of slaughtered cats They were counted in Egypt, the most important of which was in the sanctuary of Bastet.
The cat becomes a family member in Egypt
The cat occupied a prominent place in Egyptian homes. That’s 1500 of them. C-C.we found them In the noble dwellings, then in the more modest houses. Thanks to its connections with the goddess Bastet, the cat was considered a sacred animal and Killing someone was a severely punishable crime. It is said that a Roman traveler was subjected to violence by the crowd because he accidentally caused the death of a cat.
When a cat dies of disease or old age, the whole family enters A period of mourning and shaving his eyebrows Out of respect for the deceased animal. It was dead then embalmed, very similar to the way humans do. Once all the mummifications had been completed, the bereaved family offered or obtained the young body of the goddess Bastet in Bubastis. He was buried in a cat cemetery. At the end of April every year, thousands of people left their homes and descended on the Nile to participate in the great annual pilgrimage to Bubastis.