A limestone statue of the cat goddess Bastet discovered in Alexandria, Egypt.
Photo: courtesy of Egypt's Supreme Council of
temple dedicated to an ancient Egyptian cat goddess have been discovered
by archaeologists near Alexandria's train station, the Supreme Council
of Antiquities said today.
Possibly pointing to the long-sought
location of Alexandria's royal quarters, the ruins of the Ptolemaic-era
building have been unearthed at the Kom el Dikka area in the Mediterranean
city founded by Alexander the Great around 331 B.C.
The temple remains, 60 metres (200
feet) in height and 15 meters (49 feet) wide, are thought to belong to
Queen Berenike II, wife of king Ptolemy III (246-222 B.C.).
At the site, the archaeologists,
led by Dr. Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, Head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, also
unearthed a cachette of 600 Ptolemaic statues.
The large collection contained
many statue representations of the cat goddess Bastet, suggesting
that the temple was dedicated to the deity and that its worship continued
even after the decline of the Pharaohs, when the Hellenistic Egyptians
associated her with their own Greek deity Artemis.
"This is the first Ptolemaic
temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the goddess Bastet,"
the statement said.
Originally associated with a lioness
rather than the domesticated cat, Bastet was mainly worshipped in the city
of Bubastis, about 50 miles from Cairo in the eastern Nile
Delta. The ancient city even housed a great cemetery of mummified
Queen Berenike's temple was destroyed
in later eras when it was used as a quarry. This led to the disappearance
of many of its stone blocks, Dr. Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme
Council of Antiquities, said.
Clay pots as well as bronze and
ceramic statues of different ancient Egyptian deities were also uncovered,
along with terracotta statues of the gods Harpocrates and Ptah.
The mission also found the inscribed
base of a granite statue from the reign of King Ptolemy IV (205-222 B.C.).
It bears ancient Greek text written in nine lines stating that the statue
belonged to a top official in the Ptolemaic court.
According to Dr. Maqsoud, the base
was made to celebrate Egypt's victory over the Greeks during the Battle
of Raphia in 217 B.C.