THEBAN TOMBS HOME TO FANTASTIC REPRESENTATIONS OF CATS

stele Theban era 1450BC cat under chair

Cat Under Chair
Stele fragment, Theban Era 1450BC
Courtesy Archeological Museum Florence

Surprisingly, there were no sanctuaries or temples built to Bast at Thebes.  Instead, Thebes was built in honor of Amon, Mut and Khonsu.  Amon, the Father of all, Mut the Mother of all and Khonsu their son, were a trinity so to speak.  This is the reason that fewer cat mummies have been found at Thebes than at other sites.  However, a cat named Nedjem meaning the “Pleasant One”was found in the tomb of Puimre dating to about 1450BC.  It was from this date wall painting became even more prevalent amongst the tombs’ of the nobles.  Of all the depictions of the ancient Egyptian cat, those found on the walls of the tombs at Thebes are among the most fantastic and illuminating.  These tombs contain the greatest number of cats in hunting and domestic scenes.  Cats are hunting birds and fish as well as posed in domestic scenes where they are sitting under or tied to chairs usually occupied by women or the Mother goddess Mut. They also appear gnawing on bones or sitting with other animals such as geese and monkeys. One of the most famous wall paintings comes from the tomb of Nebamun, now in the British Museum, and shows a cat helping the young noble catch wild fowl. Additionally, on a wall painting in the tomb of Pharaoh Siptah (19thDynasty) we see the cat as so revered that it is included among the 75 manifestations of RA. 

 

Tomb of the Noble Nebamun 1450 BC

Tomb of the Noble Nebamun
1450 BC

 

 

 

cat eating a fish under Tawi's chair 1400BC

Cat Eating a Fish Under Tawi’s Chair
Tomb of Nakhts, 1400 BC

 

 

 

Tuthosis III Tomb

Tomb of Tuthosis III
Bast as one of the 75 representations of RA

 

In addition to the tomb paintings, many small pieces of limestone, called ostraca, have been found with comic portrayals of cats serving mice. In the first figure a spotted cat, tail wrapped to the right, holding a fan and a dead goose, makes an offering to a seated rat.  The rat looks like he is holding a cocktail in his right hand and a fish bone in his left. 

Cat and Mouse Ostracon, Ancient Egypt Brooklyn Museum

Cat and Mouse
Ostracon, Ancient Egypt
Brooklyn Museum

The next ostracon shows a sword bearing cat holding a criminal to face a rat judge leaning on a staff. Another shows a spotted cat holding a stick herding six geese.  One rather comical papyrus shows cats guarding a fortress against rats.  The

Ostracon Cat Executioner

Ostracon Cat Executioner

rats are propping up ladders against the ramparts and are preparing to climb them.  A more senior rat, riding in a chariot drawn by dogs, shoots arrows at the cats in a Ramses-like fashion.  Such a scene easily brings to mind a 4,000 year old rendition of the cartoon Tom and Jerry. The ancient Egyptians clearly had senses of humor and adeptly used anthropomorphism.

 

 

 

 

 

So grieved by the death of his cat, “Ta Mit,” the son of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, (1386-1348), Prince Thutmose, brother to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, (Akhenaton) had her mummified.  He then commissioned a sarcophagus, now in the Cairo Museum, and had it engraved with funerary texts that were meant to protect her in the after life just like any person (Yurco, 1990). Ironically, however, during the Armana period (1353-1335) reign of  Akhenaton, representations of cats do not appear in the royal tombs, most probably due to the monotheism that he supported.

 

Ta Mit's Cat Sarcophagus Pet of Thutmose 28th Dynasty

Ta Mit’s Cat Sarcophagus
Pet of Thutmose
28th Dynasty

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Laura Vocelle

Comments

  1. Tom and Jerry! Too funny!

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  1. […] engraved with cats chasing a group of water fowl, are reminiscent of the bird hunting scene in the tomb of the Theban noble Nebamun.  Scholars suggest that cats trained to hunt water fowl were introduced to Crete from Egypt […]