These mummified cats from the Ptolemaic period (305 to 30 BC) of ancient Egypt, housed in the British Museum, offer significant insights into the culture's religious practices and beliefs concerning animals, notably cats.

Cats held considerable religious importance in ancient Egypt, with evident links to the sun god, Ra, and Bastet, the goddess of home. As revered entities, cats were typically preserved post-mortem, leading to the proliferation of cat mummification.

The mummies are encased in detailed bandages, which carefully outline the shape of a cat, some even displaying remnants of intricate paintwork that originally adorned them. Certain mummies exhibit stylized faces, comprehensively realized through extra linen wrapped or treated with gesso and pigment, to resemble a cat's features.

Analyses reveal not all wrapped entities contain whole cat remains, with some holding bone fragments or fur, and some devoid of bodily inclusions. Scholars suggest this discrepancy may be due to escalated demand for animal mummies surpassing available supply, leading to dishonest practices.

The mummies display a range in dimensions, typically between 30-40 cm, but can measure up to 70 cm, likely reflecting the completeness of the remains inside. Preservation statuses also vary, with some samples in near immaculate condition, while others are damaged, lack certain facial features, or bear signs of bandage decay.

The mummification method primarily entailed drying the body, excising the organs, filling the body cavity with materials like linen or sawdust, then wrapping the bodies in linen bandages. The mummies testify to the skilled execution of these preservation processes.

British Museum