Height: 27.000 cm
Width: 8.260 cm
Depth: 10.800 cm
Ancient Egypt and Sudan
Bronze figure of the cat-headed goddess Bastet
Late Period or Ptolemaic Period, about 664-30 BC
Bastet shaking a sistrum and holding an aegis, with kittens at her feet
The name of the cat goddess means 'she of the ointment jar', reflecting her soothing and peaceful nature. Bastet was the protective aspect of the feline goddess, perhaps because the cat takes good care of its kittens. The aggressive aspect is represented by Sekhmet, goddess of destruction.
From at least the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) the cat goddess Bastet had a cult centre at the Delta town of Bubastis. This town was most important during the Libyan Period (1070-747 BC), because the kings of the Twenty-second Dynasty originated here. Osorkon I and Osorkon II built a temple of Bastet at Bubastis with a gateway decorated with scenes of the jubilee festival of Osorkon II.
In describing the festival of Bastet, the Greek historian Herodotus (about 484-425 BC) equated the cat goddess with the Greek goddess Artemis. The festival procession was by boat, the occupants playing musical instruments, singing and clapping. The boats approached the shore when they passed towns, and the inhabitants would run or dance alongside the boats, calling to the procession. The festival itself took place in the temple of Bastet, and consisted of a large number of sacrifices and the consumption of copious amounts of wine by the huge crowds that attended.
I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of A (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
J. Malek, The cat in ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)