January 19, 2010

Archaeologists Uncover Cat Goddess Temple In Egypt

Egyptian archaeologists announced Saturday they have unearthed the remains of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Egyptian cat goddess Bastet in the city of Alexandria, The Independent UK reported.

The remains discovered contain about 600 Ptolemaic statues -- amongst which are beautiful depictions of the cat goddess Bastet, according to Dr. Zahi Hawass.

The mission excavating at Kom el Dikka on property of the Alexandria Security Forces included 18 skilled excavators and restorers.

"The large collection of Bastet statues indicates that the temple was dedicated to her," said Dr. Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, Head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt.

The temple's foundation can be dated to the reign of Queen Berenike - the wife of King Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-222 BC) - making it the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to Bastet.

Early studies indicate that Bastet's worship continued in Egypt after the decline of the ancient Egyptian era.

Bastet originally took the form of a lion and protected the king during battle.

However, the Greek rulers of the Ptolemaic Dynasty associated her instead with their own Artemis, changing her appearance to that of a cat and calling her Ailuros, a lunar goddess.

Researchers said the inscribed base of a granite statue from the reign of King Ptolemy IV (205-222 BC) was also unearthed.

Dr. Maqsoud said the statue bears ancient Greek text written in nine lines stating that the statue belonged to a top official in the Ptolemaic court.

He claims the base was made to celebrate Egypt's victory over the Greeks during the Battle of Raphia in 217 BC.

Also uncovered, were a Roman water cistern, a group of 14 meter-deep water wells, stone water channels, the remains of a bath area and a large number of clay pots and sherds that can be dated to the 4th century BC.

"It is very possible that this find - made during routine excavations at the Kom el Dikka area - is the first trace of the real location of Alexandria's royal quarter," said Dr. Maqsoud.

The Ptolemaic period marks the Greek rule of Egypt from 305 BC until the Roman conquest in 30 BC.