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  • Steven Seidman

    Faience Bowl, 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom, Egypt, ca. 1292-1189 BCE. (British Museum)

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Musician. Blue faience glaze bowl (about 1300 BCE), 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom, Egypt.

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Male god. Period: New Kingdom. Dynasty: Dynasty 18. Reign: reign of Amenhotep III. Date: ca. 1390–1352 B.C. Geography: Country of Origin Egypt. Medium: Granodiorite.

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Image: Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat. Middle Kingdom, ca. 1990–1900 B.C.E. Cats in the ancient world, article by Joshua J. Mark. #3. The Egyptians are also responsible for the very name `cat’ in that it derives from the North African word for the animal, “quattah”, and, as the cat was so closely associated with Egypt, almost every other European nation employs variations on this word: French, chat; Swedish, katt; German, katze; Italian, gatto; Spanish, gato and so forth.

  • J. E. Bruce

    The colloquial word for a cat - `puss’ or `pussy’ - is also associated with Egypt in that it derives from the word `Pasht’, another name for Bastet. Cats are mentioned in the two great literary epics of ancient India, The Mahabharata and The Ramayana (both c. 5th/4th century BCE). In Mahabharata a famous passage concerns the cat Lomasa and the mouse Palita, who help each other escape from death and discuss at length the nature of relationships, particularly those in which one of the parties is stronger or more powerful than the other. In the Ramayana, the god Indra disguises himself as a cat after seducing the beautiful maid Ahalya as a means to escape from her husband. As was the case everywhere else, cats in India were found to be particularly useful in controlling the populations of less desirable creatures like mice, rats, and snakes and so were honoured in the homes, farms, and palaces throughout the land. That the cat was seen as more than just a method of pest control is substantiated by the reverence accorded to felines in the literature of India. The famous story of Puss in Boots (best known through the French version by Charles Perrault, 1628-1703 CE) is taken from a much older Indian folk tale in the Panchatantra from the 5th century BCE (though the character of the cat’s master has a very different personality in the older tale than the one in Perrault’s story). The esteem in which cats were held is also evident in the Indian cat goddess, Sastht, who served much the same role as Bastet and was as greatly revered. A Persian tale claims the cat was created magically. The great Persian hero Rustum, out on campaign, one night saved a magician from a band of thieves. Rustum offered the older man the hospitality of his tent and, as they sat outside under the stars, enjoying the warmth of a fire, the magician asked Rustum what he wished for as a gift in repayment for saving the man’s life. Rustum told him that there was nothing he desired since everything he could want, he already had before him in the warmth and comfort of the fire, the scent of the smoke and the beauty of the stars overhead. The magician then took a handful of smoke, added flame, and brought down two of the brightest stars, kneading them together in his hands and blowing on them. When he opened his hands toward Rustum, the warrior saw a small, smoke-grey kitten with eyes bright as the stars and a tiny tongue which darted like the tip of flame. In this way, the first Persian cat came to be created as a token of gratitude to Rustum. The prophet Muhammed was also very fond of cats. According to legend, the `M’ design on the forehead of the tabby cat was made when the prophet blessed his favourite cat by placing his hand on its head. This cat, Meuzza, also features in another famous story in which Muhammed, called to prayer, found the cat asleep on his arm. Rather than disturb the cat, Muhammed cut the sleeve from his robe and left Meuzza to sleep. The status of the cat, therefore, was further enhanced by its association with a figure of divinity.

Signet ring Period: New Kingdom, Amarna Period Dynasty: Dynasty 18 Date: ca. 1353–1323 B.C. Geography: Egypt Medium: Gold