|Ancient Egyptian Bronze Cat|
Bast was a very important, powerful goddess and her cult was spread the length of the Nile Valley, but the centre of her worship was at the city named after her in the Nile Delta. During pharaonic times the city was called Per-Bast or ‘House of Bast’ and it then became known as Bubastis. It reached the peak of its importance during the 22nd dynasty when Pharaoh Shoshenq I created it as his capital. The city remained the capital of Egypt for over 230 years until the Persian invasion led by Cambyses II in 525 BC.
What is left of the ancient remains of the city lies on the outskirts of the modern industrial city of Zagazig, some 80 kms north of Cairo. The great temple of Bast, which the historian Herodotus described as a building of great splendour and beauty, has been excavated. The building of this temple commenced in the 4th dynasty in the reign of the Pharaoh Khufu, who was the king who also constructed the Great Pyramid at Giza, and was extended and embellished by many successive pharaohs over the course of the next 1700 years. The temple of Bast was built from blocks of valuable red granite that had to be transported all the way from the distant quarries at Aswan.
|Egyptian Cat Mummy|
One of the most common offerings made to gain favour and blessings from Bast was a mummified cat. Thousands upon thousands of these cat mummies have been discovered and there is a huge cat cemetery situated in Bubastis itself. This extensive cat necropolis was started in the Third Intermediate Period, and grew into a network of subterranean passages and tomb chambers made from mud brick some 200 metres north of the temple. The cat mummies were placed in niches and on shelves along the walls. Some of these cat mummies had been carefully wrapped in fine linen and placed in finely decorated coffins; others are much simpler, probably reflecting the wealth and status of the pilgrim. Because so many of these cat mummies have been discovered in Egypt, in the recent past many of them were ground up to use as fertiliser or burned for fuel.