Bastet holding sistrum

Late Period–Ptolemaic Period

Not on view

Bastet, here shown as a cat-headed goddess, was a powerful protective figure who also was known for her fertility. She could be represented with a lion head as well, but as a cat-headed goddess her peaceful traits were emphasized. Her personal adornments and garments are elaborate on statuettes, often more so than other goddesses, and she usually carries numerous attributes. This spare and slender figure holds a basket in the crook of her elbow, a protective aegis against her chest and a sistrum in her other hand. A suggestion that the basket held kittens seems unfounded, but statuettes of this type do sometimes show the goddess with kittens in front of her, alluding to her fertility. Her dress has a complex striped pattern. Bastet does not always wear a decorated dress, but it is much more common for her than for other goddesses. The patterning highlights its intricacy and quality; also, as some have suggested, the vertical banding may recall the striped fur of a cat.

Bastet’s main cult center was at Bubastis in the Delta, where thousands of cat mummies and a large number of cat statuettes were discovered. Her cult extended far beyond Bubastis, however, and statuettes of this goddess, as a cat or cat-headed, were among some of the most popular dedications of the Late and Ptolemaic Periods.

Bastet holding sistrum, Cupreous metal

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