Two thousand years ago, Egyptians would purchase a mummified kitten from a breeder, to offer as a sacrifice to the goddess Bastet.

Between about 332 B.C. and 30 B.C. in Egypt, cats were bred near temples specifically to be mummified and used as offerings.

Cat mummies from this period are common, especially kittens. Kittens, aged 2 to 4 months old, were sacrificed in huge numbers, because they were more suitable for mummification. The fact that the cats were young suggests that it was one of those bred specifically for mummification. The cats were wrapped as tightly as possible, and would be placed in a sitting position before mummification, similar to the seated cats depicted in hieroglyphics from the same era. To make the cat take up as little space as possible, the embalmers fractured some of the cat’s bones, including a backbone at the base of the spine to position the tail as close to the body as possible, and ribs to make the front limbs sit closer to the body. The arrangement of the mummy’s wrappings are intricate, with various geometrical patterns.

However the twenty-one kitten mummies from the Beni Hasan site opened in 1968 have been dated to almost one thousand years prior to this date, to approximately 1303 BC, placing them during the reign of Rameses II, the third Pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty. This suggests that these particular mummies may not have been “commercially” bred, as the above example suggests, and none of the embalming process of breaking and fracturing of the kitten’s skeletal structure was evident in the remains that were examined (according to Cairo Museum’s notes). Many more questions have been raised by this peculiar find.

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Beni Hasan (also written as Bani Hasan, or also Beni-Hassan) (Arabic: بني حسن‎) is an Ancient Egyptian cemetery site. It is located approximately 20 kilometers to the south of modern-day Minya in the region known as Middle Egypt, the area between Asyut and Memphis.

In 1968 a tomb was uncovered near a small shrine to the cat goddess Bastet. The site appeared to be looted long ago, during antiquity. The Mummy of the tomb’s owner was long gone, and most of the hieroglyphs identifying the owner had crumbled with age. Although not a royal tomb, it did appear to be the tomb of an important official of the the royal court of Rameses II.

The mystery did not end there.An enameled wooden box was discovered amid the debris of the tomb. It contained twenty-one tiny mummified kittens, each with it’s own unique bronze amulet.

The names on the amulets translated as:

  1. Nakau
  2. Sethnakht
  3. Tawosret
  4. Djau
  5. Nekeba
  6. Urhi
  7. Teshub
  8. Siptah
  9. Piankh
  10. Maru
  11. Meket
  12. Kharbat
  13. Hrere
  14. Illahet
  15. Shebitko
  16. Sakka
  17. Hetepi
  18. Sekhem
  19. Nefarud
  20. Rikare
  21. Khanut

The small kitten mummies were taken to the Cairo Museum shortly after their discovery for further study. Unfortunately, the last noted report of their whereabouts was a catalog entry made during an inventory of the museum in February 1972.

The mummies have not been seen since… Until now.