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Harborough Museum

Mummified cat’s head

Mummified cat’s head

Read all about this curious object from the Market Harborough Historical Society collection. The Society, which formed in 1931, began by collecting antiquities and curiosities like this cat head.

Ancient Egypt had many customs and traditions. Cats were held in such high regard and worshipped, the goddess known as Bastet was presented as half-cat, half-woman. Cats, such as the one on show in Harborough Museum, would have been highly looked after, as it was considered a crime to hurt or injure a cat, punishable by death.

A statuette of the Egyptian goddess Bastet.
A statuette of Bastet from the Walters Art Museum.

When the cat’s owner passed away however, it was often customary for them to join their owner in the afterlife; which meant they had to die too. This cat skull on display, dating from the 3rd century BC, has some significant damage to the left-hand side of its skull which could be indicative of a deliberate death. In many Egyptian burials, skeletal remains of cats have been discovered. This is thought to be because cats were thought of as protectors, as depicted in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Mummified cat head from the Market Harborough Historical Society collection
Mummified cat head from the Market Harborough Historical Society collection.

Just like their owners, cats were carefully mummified to preserve them. It is likely that this cat was very well-loved and accompanied his or her master to the afterlife.

Thanks to our volunteers for researching and writing this entry.

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