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Cat Coffin with Mummy

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

This cat coffin has a gilded head and is painted with a collar around its neck, a necklace holding an Eye of Horus protective amulet, and the dot-and-line pattern, denoting fur, typically used at Istabl Antar cemetery.

DNA testing of the mummy in this coffin demonstrates a direct genetic connection between ancient Egyptian cats and modern housecats.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment, animal remains (Felis sylvestris), linen
  • Reportedly From: Saqqara, Egypt
  • DATES 664-332 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 26 to Dynasty 30
    PERIOD Late Period
    DIMENSIONS 23 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 6 5/16 in. (60 x 13.3 x 16 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 37.1947E
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Cat Coffin with Mummy, 664-332 B.C.E. Wood, pigment, animal remains (Felis sylvestris), linen, 23 5/8 x 5 1/4 x 6 5/16 in. (60 x 13.3 x 16 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1947E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum (Gavin Ashworth,er), 37.1947E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 37.1947E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The object is a wooden coffin of a cat containing mummified cat bones and unknown debris wrapped in linen textile. The coffin depicts a cat sitting on its hind legs with its front paws extended. The two sides of the coffin join in the center forming a join that runs down the center of the cat’s face and body. The proper left side appears to be carved out of two pieces of wood while the proper right side is made of at least three pieces. The halves are no longer attached to each other and the coffin rests on one side. A white ground was applied over the wood ( thickly in places to account for the shape of the wood underneath) and this was painted with a geometric design on the body and front legs of the cat using red, Egyptian blue, and a light yellow pigment. Any design on the cat’s face is less clear though gold gilding is discernible on the top of the nose. The head and face are dark in color which could be pigment or dirt. The interior of the coffin holds a large linen textile wrapped oblong mummy that is very dark gray/black in color. The mummy is incomplete. It is wrapped in multiple layers of rough woven textile.The contents of the mummy are visible in holes near the foot and the head of the mummy (located in the base and head of the coffin respectively). One long thin bone is visible within the foot hole. It appears to be femur or humerus bone. Within the hole near the coffin’s head, a wide flat bone resembling a scapula is visible. One vertebra lies on top of mummy near a small hole close to the tail end. Condition: The coffin and its contents are in poor and unstable condition. The base of the coffin is missing as is the proper right front paw and part of the arm. The edge of the missing arm is flat suggesting the lower arm and paw were made of a separate piece of wood attached when the coffin was made. Other cracks on the surface appear to be saturated with a material that has darkened the surface.
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