Temple to Cat Goddess Discovered in Egypt

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A limestone statue of the cat goddess Bastet discovered in Alexandria, Egypt.

Photo: courtesy of Egypt's Supreme Council of

Antiquities.

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

cats.

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.

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