Rare Egyptian Bronze Cat Nursing Kittens, Late Dynastic, C. 712-343 BC
A cast bronze fragment of a piece that was perhaps a cuff or applique.
The ancient Egyptians, rather uniquely among the world’s civilizations, had an obsession with cats, both tame and fierce, large and small. Cats were domesticated to help protect crops from pests in Cyprus or possibly Mesopotamia (it is difficult to interpret the archaeological record on this matter for a variety of reasons), but the Egyptian’s love of cats seems to have gone above and beyond that of their contemporaries. The cemetery at Hierakonpolis includes a cat skeleton in a pre-Dynastic tomb (c. 3700 BC) that had a broken left humerus and right femur that seem to have been set by a human and allowed to heal before that cat’s ultimate death.
The first illustration of a cat with a collar comes from a 5th Dynasty (c. 2500 to 2350 BC) Egyptian tomb at Saqqara. Cats were the most frequently mummified animal in Egypt and there were multiple feline goddesses, including the domesticated cat-form Bastet. Bronze statues like this one may have been direct offerings or appeals to Bastet.