Several ley deities – Mafdet (justice), Bastet (fertility) and Shekmet (power) – were depicted as cats.
By the Late Period (640-322BC) in particular the mummifying of cats grew in popularity. It was only when Egypt became a Roman province that cats and religion began to be disassociated.
A small Egyptian cat, probably depicting the goddess Bastet, was sold for £29,000 at Cheffins’ (24.5/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) Fine Sale on March 24.
Standing only 7in (18.5cm) high, it is thought to date from the late dynastic period and would once have held a faience scarab in a recess between the ears. The eyes too would also have been inset.
Charles Ashton, director at Cheffins in Cambridge, had found it in a house in Long Melford, Suffolk. “This was one of those one-off unusual finds we sometimes come across when clearing a property. The cat had been left on a high shelf in a sitting room for many years. It was believed to have been acquired in the 1940s by a naval officer who had also worked for BBC radio as a journalist, travelling all over the world.”
It was estimated to sell for £2000-3000 but, with several competing phone and internet bidders from the UK and across Europe, it took £29,000 – the top price of the sale.