HOW EGYPT’S ANCIENT CITY OF DIVINE CATS WAS REDISCOVERED – From National Geographics

For Tabby, the Cat Who Knows All

Clues from ancient texts guided European archaeologists in their long search for Bubastis, sacred to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet.

A copper statue of the cat goddess Bastet. Eighth to fourth centuries B.C.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARY EVANS/SCALA, FLORENCE

After declining and falling into ruin over the millennia, this mysterious city captured the imagination of 19th-century European scholars who flocked to the Nile Delta in search of it. Guided by intriguing hints from classical accounts, they wanted to find Bastet’s city, unearth her glorious temple, and gain a clearer understanding of how the cat goddess played such an important role throughout the long history of ancient Egypt.

© NGP, Content may not reflect National Geographic’s current map policy.
 

Divine felines

Traces of Bastet’s cult can be found as early as the 2nd dynasty (third millennium B.C.). Representations of the cat-headed deity became common in the Old Kingdom (ca 2575-2150 B.C.). She was initially regarded as a fearsome protector of the pharaoh and later of the dead.

Bastet’s feline associations began to change around the same time as cats (known as miu or miit—he, or she, who mews) were being domesticated in Egypt. Bastet became more closely linked with nurturing and protective aspects while the mighty lion-headed goddess of war, Sekhmet, took on the characteristics of ferocity and vengeance. From the second millennium B.C., Bastet’s appearance became less leonine, and she was consistently depicted as a domestic cat with a woman’s body.

Finding Bubastis

One of the most important sources about the city is found in the works of Herodotus. In his fifth-century B.C. tour of Egypt, the Greek historian provided a vivid description of Bubastis, the Temple of Bastet, and the fervor of her worship: “In this city there is a temple very well worthy of mention, for though there are other temples which are larger and build with more cost, none more than this is a pleasure to the eyes.”

He described the city’s beauty and the noisy revelers traveling in boats to Bubastis, “where they hold a festival celebrating sacrifices, and more wine is consumed upon that festival than during the whole of the rest of the year.”After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, Bubastis was abandoned, and the memory of its location was lost for centuries.

French Connection

In the 18th century, European scholars began hunting for the places mentioned in ancient texts. To the French scholars who accompanied Napoleon on his 1798 expedition to Egypt, Herodotus’s account served as an inspiration to locate it. One of them, Étienne-Louis Malus, spotted features in the Nile Delta mentioned by Herodotus and found ruins nearby that he declared to be Bubastis. Lying northeast of Cairo, this site, known as Tell Basta, became the accepted spot where Bastet’s city once stood.

As the discipline of Egyptology expanded in the 19th century, so did interest in the site. During an 1843 visit there, the English archaeologist John Gardner Wilkinson lamented that Bubastis was being damaged and that the temple ruins had been quarried for stone. Eventually, an excavation was undertaken by Swiss Egyptologist Édouard-Henri Naville in 1887, centered on studying the Temple of Bastet.

In London the press avidly followed the latest discoveries in Egypt. In 1887 the St. James’s Gazette reported on a lecture given by Édouard Naville on Bubastis: “[He] ascertained that the temple, which for a long time had been considered as hopelessly lost, not only existed in ruins but had already yielded most interesting inscriptions . . . and believed very valuable discoveries would be made there.”

Naville, it turned out, was right. Both his study and subsequent others have revealed that the shrine (which incorporated older structures) was begun by Pharaoh Osorkon II in the ninth century B.C. His dynasty reigned from nearby Tanis, thus increasing the importance of Bubastis in the region, and adding yet more luster to the Bastet cult.

The Bubastis treasure

In the fall of 1906, an amazing find was made near the excavation site. A railroad was being built near Tell Basta, and workmen hit on a treasure hoard buried near the remains of the temple.

Inscriptions on many of the objects date to the 19th dynasty during the New Kingdom (ca 1539-1075 B.C.), before Osorkon II’s reign and his restoration of Bastet’s temple. It is not clear why the hoard was buried. Some scholars speculate it could have been buried for safekeeping, either by looters who never came back for it or by priests to protect it.

The treasures were of great value at the time. A gold cup sculpted to resemble lotus petals bears the name of the 12th-century B.C. queen Tawosret, the consort of Pharaoh Seti II. Tradition holds she was the queen of Egypt during the Trojan War. Scholars believe that the queen Alcandra mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey was Tawosret.

Workers found another cache later that fall with more treasures, including gold armlets inscribed with the name of Ramses II. Aside from their beauty, these objects give great insight into the importance of Bubastis as a center of trade and commerce. Certain motifs on some of the objects are not Egyptian, and the presence of silver—unobtainable in Egypt—suggests extensive trade with Greece or kingdoms in Anatolia. Gold was brought from Nubia, its rarity associated with royalty.


“ Queens of Egypt” is open at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. through Summer of 2019.

Thank you National Geographics for offering some of the most worthwhile and satisfying news of the world! 

AHAB THE WANDERER – Marilyn Armstrong

Back in another life, I lived in a little house on Long Island, not far from the university where I’d gone to school and at which my husband worked. We always had a dog and several cats. In those days, we let our cats outside. There wasn’t much traffic and everyone’s cats roamed the neighborhood.

One day, while we were out in the yard, we had a visitor, a medium-sized black and white cat. He was extremely friendly. Sidled right up to us, purring, and doing that little head butt that’s so endearing. Maybe he was hungry? Of course, we fed him.

My son fell immediately in love and we said he could keep the cat.

ahab

My husband had a passion for the classics. He named the cat Ahab, which he said meant “wanderer.” Princeton University agrees, except the name in Hebrew means “uncle.” Which is irrelevant but I threw it in because I did the research and wanted to do something with the information.

Back to the story, already in progress.

Ahab was a sweetheart, the most laid-back cat I ever knew. My 4-year old felt he needed a bubble bath in a bucket. Ahab purred his way through the bubbles and the rinse cycle then continued purring all the way through dinner and a relaxed evening on the sofa with the whole family.

We couldn’t figure out why anyone would let a sweet fellow like Ahab go. He was young. Healthy. Litter trained, though he preferred going outside to do his business. His coat was shiny and he showed no sign of abuse or neglect. He oozed charm.

Ahab settled in like he’d always lived with us. He got along with the dog and the other cats. Loved children. Loved everyone. We made a date to take him to the veterinarian for shots.

He never went to the vet, at least not with us. The following day, without so much as a “by your leave,” Ahab moved down the block and took up residence with a different family. We were a little wounded. We’d never been abandoned by a cat before. His new family adored him but Ahab only hung around a few days, then moved on.

We eventually lost track of Ahab. He moved from house to house, charming everyone and purring his way to his next home. He never stayed longer than a few days and was always the perfect house guest.

Was he a stray? If he was, it was what he wanted.  Ahab was a wanderer by choice.

ABOUT THOSE PETS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fur Children Questions

Originally extracted from:

https://pressingpatience.com/2018/08/04/questions-about-the-furbabies/


1.  Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?

We currently have three dogs.

All them dogs
More dogs!

Two Scottish Terriers and a mutt of Asian extraction.

2.  How long have you had your current pet(s)?

We’ve had Bonnie since she was 9 weeks old and she is now 11. After that, We’ve had Gibbs for two years and Duke for one year

3.  What’s the longest period of time you’ve lived with a pet? 

As a puppy … 2007

Bonnie wins that one. We got her when she was only 9 weeks old. And suddenly, she’s 11. How did that happen?

4.  What type of animals do you generally gravitate towards when adopting pets?

At this point? Dogs.

Feeding time
Sleeping time

For a long time, we didn’t live anywhere we could keep dogs, so we didn’t have them, but once we could, we got one, then another. And then some more.

5.  What type of animal do you think is the easiest to care for as a pet?

Pets are not “easy” really. When they are healthy and happy and not old and cranky, they are all easy. But time does to dogs what it does to people.

The last months of Bishop.

They develop physical issues, including arthritis and cancer and because their lives are so short, it feels like no time passes between puppyhood and old age.

6.  Do any of your pets have annoying habits that you can’t break them of?

Gibbs barks continuously when Owen is around the house. NO idea why because he doesn’t do that with anyone else. Duke tends to try to bully the Scotties.

BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK

They don’t like it and neither do I, but he has a passionate yearning to be top dog and he’s pushy. The Scotties are not pushy, so he gets away with it.

7.  What, in your opinion, is the most difficult thing about being a pet owner?

Vet bills. And losing your dogs to age.

8.  Do any of your animals have amusing traits that are particular to them?

All of them.

Bonnie is just adorable, stubborn, funny. Duke lived most of his life in a cage, but he has come a long way in a short time.

Gibbs

He’s quite the cuddler these days when The Duke doesn’t try to muscle him out of the way.

Crazy Duke got groomed

The Duke is totally wacko. Seriously nuts.

9.  Which type of pet do you think requires the most care?

Fish, absolutely. Fish tanks always need care.

10.  Was there a furbaby that you bonded with more closely than any other?

Griffin, our big boy PBGV was my favorite. He didn’t live nearly long enough.

Beautiful Griffin

But I love them all. He was just such a big heap of love and he made me laugh.

11.  Do you spoil your pets? In what way?

Basically, they run the joint and let us live here and feed them. We are very good about that.

12.  How do your pets react to strangers in the yard? at the door? in the house?

It depends on the stranger. Mostly, strangers don’t come into the yard. I have signs everywhere warning people away.

Incarcerated!

It’s not to protect them. It’s to protect the dogs from them.

13.  Do you tend to anthropomorphize your animals? If so, how far do you take it? For example: Do you dress them in clothing?

Not so much as I’ve gotten older. I often wish I could get into their heads and understand them better.

14.  Have you ever had what might be considered “unusual” or exotic pets?

We had a pair of ferrets, Bonnie and Clyde. They were adorable, but they weren’t our pets. They were our cat’s pets. He adopted them.

15.  How old were you when you (or your family) adopted your first pet?

I grew up with Doberman Pinschers. I think we got the first one when I was four and they were there until I was a teenager. Then they got a German Shepherd, but by then, I was out of the house and living a separate life.

Garry and I both had cats when we met. He had two, I had one. Getting them to like each other was not easy, but neither of us was willing to give up a cat!

16.  What’s the most trouble you can remember a pet getting into?

Bonnie was stolen, but the cops brought her home. Sirens and all.

18.  What does your relationship with your furbaby mean to you?

They keep us sane. I swear I’d never survive life without them.

19.  How do your pets react when you sing and/or dance?

We don’t dance and our singing seems to be mostly ignored.

20. Have you ever adopted a pet and found out you didn’t get along with them? What did you do?

Yes. We rehomed them to people who loved them.

21.  Where do your pets sleep in relation to you? Do they have their own bed, or do you allow them to share yours?

Our pets own the living room and sleep on the sofas. My back is too twisted to share it with three dogs and in any case, the Scotties are too short-legged to get up on a bed without being in danger of getting hurt falling off.

22.  How do you come up with names for your pets?

Bonnie Annie Laurie

Garry picked Bonnie whose full name is Bonnie Annie Laurie if you please.

I picked Gibbs.

Garry picked The Duke.

23.  Putting aside money and sanitary issues — If you could fill your house and property with animals, what type would they be?

Dogs. And maybe a donkey.

24.  What was the most expensive pet you’ve ever adopted?

A Norwich terrier who turned out to be a horrible mistake. We rehomed her and she lived a GREAT life, but she was not a dog who got along with other animals. And she was dumb as a rock.

25.  What, in your opinion, is the best thing about adopting animals into your home?

It looks like murder, but it’s actually playing. No pain, no gore, no blood. Not even any pulled out fur.

They remind you to keep living! Because you need them — and they need YOU.

THE TINY WORMS IN THE FRIDGE – Marilyn Armstrong

My house was neat enough if you didn’t look too closely. You could walk into it without falling over a pile of dirty clothing (that was all in the basement — another story entirely) and the dogs and cats were  (usually) housebroken.

I couldn’t say the same for my toddler or my friends. Overall, the toddler was less of a threat to house and home than the friends, but when they got to messing around, anything could happen.

As my son grew, he developed (what a surprise) a passion for all kinds of creatures. Rabbits. Hamsters. Birds. We already had cats (many) and dogs.

We never properly owned more than two dogs but often had three or four. Two of them were ours. One was on loan from a friend who was in the army or on the road playing gigs. The fourth had belonged to a houseguest who had left but somehow forgotten to take their dog. Sometimes, it took us years to get the owner to come back and take the furkid too.

I love animals that aren’t insects, so while I frequently pointed out that it was NOT my dog and would they please come and get him or her, I would never throw them out. The owner I might toss out the door, but never the dog.

The year Owen turned eight, he decided he wanted geckos. They were the “in” things for 8-year-old boys that year. I pointed out that I didn’t think they would last long with the cats in the house.

He wanted the geckos. I was not much of a disciplinarian. If you argue with me, I’ll say no at least twice. After that? I usually give up.

As soon as we got the terrarium and the plants and finally settled the geckos into their home, Owen promptly lost interest in them and rediscovered his bicycle. That left me to care for the geckos, who would only eat mealworms.

I am not a big fan of worms. Any worms. I can tolerate earthworms because they are good for the soil, but overall, if it creeps or crawls, it’s not my thing. Did I mention that the geckos would only eat LIVE mealworms? I had to buy them in little cups at the pet store.

So mom dropped over and the cup of mealworms for the geckos had tipped over in the fridge. Which was now full of tiny worms. I assured her that my fridge does not usually contain worms and the worms were what the geckos ate. I don’t think she believed me. It was years before she would eat anything at my house. She always quietly inspected everything, in case there were a few worms there.

As for the geckos, a few days later, the cats figured out how to open the terrarium and there were no more geckos. And thankfully, no more mealworms.

THE CARDINAL AND THE CAT

Several years before the pedophile priest scandal destroyed Cardinal Law’s career, Garry was friends with him. Not close pals, but better than mere acquaintances. Garry thought I would enjoy Bishop Cardinal Law’s company, so when the opportunity came up, he did a very Garry thing.

He was working weekends for several decades, so whatever stuff happened on Sunday, Garry was on it. This Sunday, the old catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.

Holy_Cross_Cathedral_1881

For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere  in Boston is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from the lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

The cathedral was a grand dame amongst local churches. You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. Roxbury was almost entirely Black and the Catholic population was small. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood, red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We were among the first two or three middle class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians — and that turned out to be true, though it took some years for the area to finally turn around.

To be fair, we had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location — and we could afford it. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, more or less within our budget. “Affordable” in Boston — any neighborhood, no matter how “bad” — is really expensive. For the price of a condo in one of Boston’s most problematic areas, you could buy a big house with land out past Metrowest. In fact, that’s what we eventually did.

But I digress.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Roxbury was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors, or felt safer.

75-BostonHPCR-3

The morning when Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”

“When?”

“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter greeter.

Big Guy
Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.

The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately (rightfully and so sadly) blamed for the long-standing policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.

Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller anyway. It was going to need some serious dry-cleaning.

I took the less valorous road and shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered round and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now … YOU know. The truth has been revealed.

UP IN A TREE – ELLIN CURLEY

The story of the cat in the tree is part of our family folk-lore. While not a major, life-altering event, it’s a good story with a happy ending.

Tom and I were scheduled to leave for London the following day. It was summer. Both of our young adult children were living at home with us. We were relaxing after dinner when we heard a cat meowing from outside the house. Our two cats — we also had three dogs — were exclusively indoor cats.

Tom, me, our kids, David and Sarah, and our three dogs at our wedding in 2002

We commented that we hadn’t realized our neighbors had cats. After a few more ‘meows’, we decided to do a head count and make sure that both of our cats were where they were supposed to be. One cat, Hillary, was missing. Shit!

So all four of us went outside and started to frantically search the fenced in backyard for our missing cat. We were worried she might be injured since she lived on the second floor of the house. The only way to get from there to the back yard, was off our bedroom deck and roof, which was pretty high up from the ground.

We searched and searched. It started to get dark so we got flashlights. When we called, she would answer us, but we couldn’t pinpoint her location. One minute she’d sound like she was off to our left. The next minute, she’d sound as if she was on our right. We got increasingly confused. We were also beginning to panic. We had to find Hillary if we wanted to leave on our trip the next day!

It eventually occurred to us that cats can climb trees. We might be looking in the wrong place for Hillary. So Tom took the flashlight up to the bedroom deck and shined it straight into the giant evergreen tree right outside our bedroom. There she was. Contentedly sitting in the tree. We figured she must have started to slide down the slanted roof and caught her fall by jumping onto the overhanging tree branch.

Tom said he’d climb the tree and get Hillary. The rest of us were afraid Tom would kill himself so we tried to dissuade him. Tom convinced us that it was an easy tree to climb and that he was an expert tree climber. So we agree and Tom climbed up to the second floor level and tried to grab Hillary. She got spooked and moved higher up the tree. After this little dance continued for a while, our daughter, Sarah, decided to step in.

Who do you call when your cat is stuck in a tree? The Fire Department. Sarah called our Volunteer Fire Department. She explained that both her cat and father were in a tree and needed help. The operator then asked Sarah if it was her father or the cat’s father who was up in the tree with Hillary.

Hillary

The Fire Department actually came. You might think firemen rescue cats from trees all the time and would know how to do it. This was true — fifty years ago. Not, however, these days. The firemen asked US what we wanted them to do. “Get a ladder.” Tom answered. So they brought out a tall ladder. But it was not tall enough.

The fireman then yelled up to Tom, “The ladder’s too short! What do you want me to do?”

What Tom did was creative and brave. He grabbed Hillary, hung upside down by his knees on a branch and handed the cat off to the fireman at the top of the ladder. Victory! Everyone gathered around the rescued cat – and completely forgot about Tom, still hanging upside down in the tree. One fireman finally went back to the tree and asked if Tom could get down on his own. Tom was hot and sweaty and exhausted, but he managed to climb down safely.

Before the firemen left, one of them phoned in a report to the office. This is what he said: “One cat and one adult male in tree. Successful recovery.”

That pretty much sums it all up!

MEMORIES OF MAO

Long ago in a land far away, we had a Siamese cat. Mao — “cat” in Chinese. I don’t know if that’s Mandarin, Cantonese or some other dialect, but it was a good name.

English: A two-year-old seal point "tradi...

We got Mao as a tiny kitten. From day one, he was a feisty, chatty cat.  He was also our first cat, which his name reflected. Mao Ee (Cat 1). There were, of course, many more cats over the decades, in all the houses in I’ve called home (except this one where it has been only dogs). Regardless, there was never another cat like Mao.

When we traveled, friends took care of our house. I was a great grower of plants back then. Feeding the cats was one part of the job … but watering the 200 plus plants was — or should have been — the bigger task. Frank — best friend’s husband — was often tasked with house care in our absence. Mao was a thinking cat. A logical cat. He decided we were gone because Frank had driven us away. If Mao could drive Frank away, we would come home.

Therefore, when Frank came to the house to feed and water cats and plants, Mao attacked him. I don’t mean a little pounce, a playful swat. It was all out warfare. Mao crouched in shadows and attacked, all 20 claws outstretched, going for gore. Poor Frank loved cats and he and Mao had always gotten along fine. He had no idea why Mao was out to get him.

The moment we came back, Mao was back to normal, friend to the world. He had obviously been right. We were back … ergo, it must have been because he drove The Invader (Frank) away. Logical, yes?

After that, Mao attacked everyone who took care of the house in our absence. He was the terror of Our Crowd. It got increasingly difficult to get someone to take care of things while we were gone.

The years moved on and Mao moved with us. There were children, jobs, bigger houses, dogs. Life. We held celebrations … big Thanksgiving dinners. One memorable occasion, we had a full house including a dozen and half people and featuring a huge turkey. When the turkey was roasted, I put it out on the counter to set while I moved food in the dining room and greeted arriving guests.

Thanksgiving006

I wasn’t gone 10 minutes. When I got back to the kitchen, Mao was on the counter, finishing off a drumstick. Its remains were still attached to the turkey — a ragged, conspicuously gnawed hole. Not the presentation I had in mind.

The husband and I consulted. We agreed and served the bird as it was.

“What happened to the turkey,” asked friends and family.

“Mao got it,” I said.

“Oh,” they said. “Pass the bird.”

It was a good Thanksgiving. Mao was some cat.