Bastet TempleSaqqara - The Places
The Temple of Bastet is also known as Dehenet-ankh-tawy
or the Bubasteum
or The Doors of the Cats
The Temple of Bastet at Saqqara was built over an extensive area southeast of the Pyramid of Teti. The area included the Goddess’ Sanctuary, her Cult Complex, and her Catacombs. The Goddess Bastet was not alone in having her own Cult Complex in the Saqqara Necropolis, to the north was the Cult Complex for the God Anubis, known as the Anubieon, and to the west was the Cult Complex for the God Ptah, known as the Serapeum where the Apis Bulls were buried.
These Areas were probably officially formed during the Old Kingdom Period, although they may have already been laid out in predynastic times, and they were immeasurably popular during the Late and Greek Periods of Ancient Egypt. This is when Saqqara had become the focus point for a Pharaonic Cultural revival which may well have stemmed from the way which Pharaoh Alexander the Great treated Egypt when he “invaded” in 332 BC to find the Egyptians welcoming him with open arms.
To learn more about the relevant period of Ancient Egypt mentioned above,
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During the New Kingdom Period (click here to learn more about the New Kingdom Period of Ancient Egypt) High Officials, the Palace Staff, and close staff to the Royal Family were either gifted or hew out Rock-cut Tombs in this area. To learn more about these Tombs, click here. These Tombs were often reused in later times as Tombs for the mummified bodies of Cats who were given as offerings to the Temple.
The Temple of Bastet itself appears to have been at the least rejuvenated but in all probability was totally rebuilt by the Ptolemaic Pharaohs to include an Enclosure Wall which was 274 meters by 325 meters. It was at this juncture that the Cat Catacombs seems to have become more popular than those found in the City of Bubastis in the Nile Delta, the Goddess Bastet’s Cult home.
These cat mummies were mummified almost to order on nearby ‘farms’ for want of a better word. The mummification level of these animals would often be the best way for us today to discover who had purchased the mummified cat. If a full cat skeleton is inside a nicely mummified offering, this would have been more expensive and so would have been offered by the higher classes. The next level would have been the more popular hurried mummification in the shape of a cat, but which probably only contained a few bones at best, and often no bones at all but some small rocks or pebbles. Lastly, the lowest level would be bandages shaped in the mummy of a cat and a drawn-on image of a cat to reflect the animal it was meant to represent.
This did not cause any issues for Egyptians as they believed that an item only had to represent the image of what it was intended for in order to reach its purpose.
In the Saqqara Rock Cut Tomb of Maya, the nurse of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, the mummified skeleton of a lion was discovered in 2001. To learn more and see inside this Tomb, click here.
Five more Lion Mummies have since been discovered at the Necropolis, and as the animal manifestation of the Goddess and of her son, one could expect more to be found especially as the excavations at Saqqara continue apace, at the time of writing.
Other excavations at Saqqara have found over 50 Wooden Coffins from some 52 Burial Shafts which are from the New Kingdom Period and to date are the eldest found in this location. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said, “These coffins are wooden and anthropoid . . . many of the Gods that were worshiped during this period were represented on the surface of the coffins, in addition to various excerpts from the Book of the Dead that help the deceased pass through the journey of the other world”.
Even more recently hundreds of coffins have been uncovered in several Megatombs at the site many of which date to the Late Period and Ptolemaic Period.
Inside each of these Megatombs are Grave Goods, Carved Statues, Mummified Cats, Mummies, and hundreds of Coffins. Some have included Funerary Objects from the higher classes, such as Gilded Masks, Bronze figures of the deities inlaid in Gems.
Many of these Coffins have been traced to Nobles, High Government Officials, and Priests and Priestesses. Due to the popularity of being buried in and around the Saqqara Necropolis during the Late and Ptolemaic Periods, the Priests in charge were reusing older Tombs and shafts, trying to fit in as many coffins as they could, from floor to ceiling.
Shared tombs were now popular as the burial costs were much lower.