Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cat with very worn inscription

Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
664–30 B.C.
From Egypt
Cupreous metal
H. 8.8 cm (3 7/16 in.); W. 3.6 cm (1 7/16 in.); L. 5.9 cm (2 5/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910
Accession Number:
Not on view
Bastet was a powerful goddess of Lower Egypt, one who was protective and could bring about great prosperity. In zoomorphic form, she was represented as a cat and cats were considered sacred to her. This cat sits on a menat-shaped base in a typical pose, upright with its tail wrapped along its right side. It is poised and alert, on guard against external forces. A worn inscription on the base preserved Bastet’s name and parts of the donor’s parents’ names.

Like cat-headed Bastet statuettes, these cats often have special adornments. This figure’s ears seem to have been pierced for earrings, probably originally of precious metal, and it wears a broad collar, below which hangs an amulet, the identity of which is unclear. Incised marks on the tail imitate the ringed tail of a cat. It also has inscribed bands above the front paws, a curious feature not commonly represented; the markings could simply be the creased joint of the flexed paws, or they could represent more jewelry, such as bracelets.

Cat statuettes were among some of the most common zoomorphic dedications of the Late and Ptolemaic Periods. Small ones, like this one, would have been dedicated as offerings to temples or would have been deposited in catacombs alongside cat mummies, as at the extensive catacombs at Bubastis and Saqqara. Sometimes larger hollow examples held a cat mummy inside.
Formerly in the collection of the Reverend Chauncey Murch (died 1907). Collected between 1883 and 1906 while Murch was a missionary in Egypt. Collection purchased by the Museum from the Murch family with funds provided by Helen Miller Gould, 1910.

Related Objects

Statue of a goddess, probably Nehemetaui or Nebethetepet

Date: 550–300 B.C. Medium: cupreous metal Accession: 26.7.845 On view in:Gallery 134

Statuette of Amun

Date: ca. 945–712 B.C. Medium: Gold Accession: 26.7.1412 On view in:Gallery 125

Cat Statuette intended to contain a mummified cat

Date: 332–30 B.C. Medium: Leaded bronze Accession: 56.16.1 On view in:Gallery 134

Ritual Figure

Date: 380–246 B.C. Medium: Wood, formerly clad with lead sheet Accession: 2003.154 On view in:Gallery 128

Bes-image of the god Hor-Asha-Khet

Date: 4th–2nd century B.C. Medium: Bronze; gold, electrum, auriferous-silver, copper and copper-alloy inlays Accession: 29.2.3 On view in:Gallery 134