You never know what you’ll find.
When the team from Penzance Auction House walked into the small house in south western Cornwall they noticed something quite remarkable looking back at them from the mantlepiece: a bronze cat, 2,600 years old.
It’s a wonderful little piece; you can just make out the engraved floral collar around its neck and it’s lightly-modelled whiskers. The gold hoop earrings are probably original.
The cat in ancient Egypt was the earthly form of the goddess Bastet.
She began life around 3,000 B.C. as Bast, a ferocious lion goddess, but by the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2055 B.C.) she had become a softer, more approachable version of her former incarnation.
In the 26th Dynasty (ca. 600 B.C.) when this cat was probably made, it was common practice to sacrifice and then mummify sacred cats as offerings to Bastet. Statuettes like this were presented as votive offerings try and buy Bastet’s good grace.
The family thought the cat was a fake and had planned to throw it into a skip bin. Thankfully it was spotted by the auctioneers and saved. Bastet's statuette sold for £52,000.