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Images: Ancient Egyptian Kittens

Hierakonpolis

cat burials in Hierakonpolis

(Image credit: © Hierakonpolis Expedition)

The excavation site at an elite cemetery in the ancient Egyptian city of Hierakonpolis. Among the many animals buried in the cemetery are six newly discovered cats, including four kittens.

Excavating Skeletons

excavating cat skeletons

(Image credit: © Hierakonpolis Expedition)

Bioarchaeologist Wim Van Neer excavates a small pit containing 6 cat skeletons at Hierakonpolis.

Cat Skeletons

Kittens in an egyptian cemetery

(Image credit: © Hierakonpolis Expedition)

A pit about 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter holds the remains of two adult cats and four kittens.

Cat Close-Up

cat burials in Hierakonpolis

(Image credit: © Hierakonpolis Expedition)

Cat skeletons found in an elite cemetery in Hierakonpolis may have been sacrified and buried as part of some religious ritual.

Felis silvestris

Felis silvestris

(Image credit: Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be)

Bone measurements suggest the cats belonged to the species Felis silvestris, the European wildcat shown here. These cats are the likely ancestors of modern housecats.

Mummified Kitten

A side and front-on X-ray of the cat mummy.

(Image credit: Gnudi, et. al., Jrn. Fel. Med. and Surg., 2012)

In later periods, cats were an indisputable part of Egyptian life. This mummified kitten dates to between 332 B.C. and 30 B.C. It was likely bred to be sacrificed to the feline goddess Bastet, according to a 2012 study.

Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers the world of human and animal behavior, as well as paleontology and other science topics. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has ducked under a glacier in Switzerland and poked hot lava with a stick in Hawaii. Stephanie hails from East Tennessee, the global center for salamander diversity. Follow Stephanie on Google+.