A limestone statue of the cat goddess Bastet discovered in Alexandria, Egypt.
Photo: courtesy of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
temple dedicated to an ancient Egyptian cat goddess have been discovered by archaeologists near Alexandria's train station, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said today.
Possibly pointing to the long-sought location of Alexandria's royal quarters, the ruins of the Ptolemaic-era building have been unearthed at the Kom el Dikka area in the Mediterranean city founded by Alexander the Great around 331 B.C.
The temple remains, 60 metres (200 feet) in height and 15 meters (49 feet) wide, are thought to belong to Queen Berenike II, wife of king Ptolemy III (246-222 B.C.).
At the site, the archaeologists, led by Dr. Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, Head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, also unearthed a cachette of 600 Ptolemaic statues.
The large collection contained many statue representations of the cat goddess Bastet, suggesting that the temple was dedicated to the deity and that its worship continued even after the decline of the Pharaohs, when the Hellenistic Egyptians associated her with their own Greek deity Artemis.
"This is the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the goddess Bastet,"
the statement said.
Originally associated with a lioness rather than the domesticated cat, Bastet was mainly worshipped in the city of Bubastis, about 50 miles from Cairo in the eastern Nile Delta. The ancient city even housed a great cemetery of mummified cats.
Queen Berenike's temple was destroyed in later eras when it was used as a quarry. This led to the disappearance of many of its stone blocks, Dr. Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said.
Clay pots as well as bronze and ceramic statues of different ancient Egyptian deities were also uncovered, along with terracotta statues of the gods Harpocrates and Ptah.
The mission also found the inscribed base of a granite statue from the reign of King Ptolemy IV (205-222 B.C.).
It bears ancient Greek text written in nine lines stating that the statue belonged to a top official in the Ptolemaic court.
According to Dr. Maqsoud, the base was made to celebrate Egypt's victory over the Greeks during the Battle of Raphia in 217 B.C.