Chapter 17 - Help at Hand


Everyone seems to think that the Egyptians worshipped cats. This is not quite true.

Egyptians worshipped a cat goddess called Bastet, and cats were seen as symbols of the goddess. The Egyptians imagined cats possessed some of Bastet's divine spirit. However Bastet was not one of the more important gods. She was the local god of the city of Bubastis in the Nile Delta (northern Egypt). Her name means 'she of the bast' (a bast was an ointment jar). She was the daughter of Ra, the sun god. Bastet was seen as a protective mother goddess (perhaps because cats look after their kittens.) She was shown as a cat, as in the bronze statue to the right, or sometimes as a woman with a cat's head or a lioness's head.

There were two main types of cat in Egypt - the jungle cat (Felis chaus) and the African wild cat (Felis silvestris libyca). Cats were valued not only as symbols of Bastet (and also Ra), but as household pets. They were also very useful for catching vermin like mice and rats. This is why they appear sitting on vats of grain in chapter 17.

The Egyptian word for cat was miu - - the sound a cat makes! That's like calling a dog a woof.

In the Late Period (after the New Kingdom) thousands of sacred cats were raised on special farms and then killed and mummified and placed in special underground galleries. Not a nice way to treat a cat!




The Egyptians used boats all the time to travel across the river, up and down it, to fish, go hunting, and so on. Smaller boats were usually made of papyrus reeds, tied together. The picture right shows a model of two papyrus fishing boats from a tomb. As you can see, these boats have little to hold onto to stop you falling over the side!



In 1968 and 1969, a Norwegian named Thor Heyerdahl built replicas of Egyptian papyrus boats called the Ra I and Ra II. He managed to sail the Ra II all the way across the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados - about 3,000 miles!  That's a lot further than from one side of the Nile to the other.

left: the Ra II



The Crocodile Statue

My description of Puyemre's statue of Sobek was based on this picture:

Puyemre's garden would be something like this: (also see chapter 10)