The Cat in Ancient Egypt
Cat fanciers who consider their pets majestic have history on their side: felines were domesticated in ancient Egypt around 2000 B.C. while their European cousins still ran wild. Over the centuries they gained an exalted position in royal society-revered as an incarnation of a goddess, modeled in bronze statuettes, and even mummified and buried with their owners. Yet cats also won commoners' respect for their humble origins and protective instincts, earning them a prominent place in the personal religion of ordinary people. Egypt scholar Jaromir Malek has called on a variety of artistic and written sources to tell how the cat became one of the most widely esteemed animals in that ancient society. He shows how we can date the domestication of cats from their depiction in art-first from the tomb of Baket III, in which a cat is shown confronting a field rat; then increasingly in images where cats are seen under the chairs of wives, a depiction that complements the long-established motif of dogs situated beneath the husbands' chair. His book includes more than a hundred illustrations-many in full color-that show how cats came to be widely represented in tomb paintings, sculpture, papyri, jewelry, ostraka, and sarcophagi. Throughout the text, he provides sufficient information on ancient Egyptian religion, society, and art to help general readers understand how the cat achieved its place of honor. 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. The Cat in Ancient Egypt is an informative and entertaining work that will delight cat lovers and history buffs alike.show more
- Paperback | 144 pages
- 185.42 x 238.76 x 15.24mm | 453.59g
- 01 Aug 1997
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- PennsylvaniaUnited States
- Revised ed.
- 90 color, 21b/w illus.
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"The definitive account of the feline in Egypt."-Catsshow more
Back cover copy
Most modern domestic cats are descendants of the cats of ancient Egypt. These beautiful and engaging creatures represent, therefore, a living link between Egyptian civilization and the completely different world of today. Dr Malek's absorbing survey shows that wild cats were probably domesticated at least as early as 2000 BC but started to be regularly included in tomb paintings of family life only some 500 years later, during the New Kingdom. Dr Malek draws evidence from a vast range of artistic and written sources to show how the cat became one of the most widely-esteemed animals, revered as a manifestation of the goddess Bastet. Large numbers of mummified cats were buried in the Late Period, and bronze statuettes of cats were dedicated to temples during religious festivals. Illustrating the text with representations of cats in tomb paintings, sculpture, papyri, jewellery, ostraka, mummies and coffins, the author conveys the affection and respect in which cats were held in ancient Egypt. This lively and readable book will surely prove to be the definitive account of the Egyptian cat: aristocrat of domestic animals.show more
About Jaromir Malek
Egyptologist and cat lover Jaromir Malek is Keeper of the Archive at the Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.show more