Bronze Figure of Bastet

900 BC - 600 BC

Late Period

This solid cast figure of the goddess Bastet represents her as a woman with cat’s head wearing a heavily patterned long garment. Her eyes have gold inlays and her ears are pierced for earrings. Of all the maned lion goddesses who were revered for their ferocity, Bastet alone was later transformed into the less terrible cat. The female cat was particularly noted for her fecundity, and so Bastet was adored as goddess of fertility and, with less obvious logic, of festivity and intoxication. As evidence of her fecundity no less than four kittens sit at her feet. Another perches inside the sistrum or Egyptian rattle, which she carries in her hand to symbolize the other facet of her personality, for it is a musical instrument connected with merrymaking. Originally there were two horizontal rods inside the hoop bearing metal discs intended to make a clashing sound when the instrument was shaken. The face of the goddess Hathor, who was also connected with music, appears on the sistrum’s handle. Across her chest Bastet carries an aegis or broad collar, surmounted by a lion goddess’ head wearing a sun disc, perhaps representing Bastet herself in her original fierce manifestation. The ‘aegis’ is probably to be interpreted as the top of the counterpoise to a ‘menyet’ collar of loosely strung beads, another musical instrument connected with merrymaking; when shaken the beads would clack together. There is a hieroglyphic text around the edges of the plinth, largely eroded or erased.

(Source: The British Museum)

Notes

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