From pampered pets to symbols of divinities and messengers of the gods, cats have been a big part of ancient Egypt from the beginning.
This charming little bronze group (just 6 cm high) of a mother cat with four kittens represents the nurturing aspect of the goddess Bastet.
It also displays the wonderful level of observation on the part of the artist; the mother cat is reclined calmly on her left side with her legs outstretched and her tail draped over her right hind leg. Three of her kittens are busy nursing, while the fourth—clearly the troublemaker of the group—playfully climbs towards its mother's neck.
The mother cat wears a necklace, shown with an incised line around her neck. What looks like a wadjet pendant is inscribed in front of the necklace, extending healing and protective powers to the owner of this tiny little piece.
In her docile moods, Bastet gave life and joy and protected the household—but she also simmered with an aggressive side and could be called upon to slaughter the enemies of the king.
This piece is dated to the Late Period to Roman Period (Dynasty 26 or later, ca. 664–30 B.C.), and is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.
Right now it is part of a travelling exhibition, now at the Dallas Museum of Art. "Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt" is showing until January 8, 2017.
Enjoy the full article on "Divine Felines" in the current issue of Nile Magazine.
In fact, now is the perfect time to subscribe. With the next issue due in December, you'll receive the current issue, followed by another one in a couple of weeks; that's a lot of great Nile time in December!