A recently-opened tomb from very early in the history of ancient Egypt shows people have prized cats since the dawn of civilization.
A rare collection of scarab beetles, along with dozens of cat mummies have been found in seven sarcophogi at a site south of Cairo. The mummies date to 6,000 years ago. According to The Guardian:
The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom and is unusual because the facade and door are intact, meaning its contents may still be untouched, said Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara area. He said experts plan to explore it in the coming weeks.
A bronze cat statue of the god Bastet was also found among the artifacts. Cats were revered in ancient Egypt. According to the Cat Museum of San Francisco:
The Ancient Egyptians held cats in the highest esteem, the penalties for injuring or killing a cat were severe. They worshipped a Cat Goddess, often represented as half feline, half woman, whom they called Bastet. The main center for the worship of Bastet was in northern Egypt at the city of Bubastis. The festival honoring Bastet was described as one of the largest and most enthusiastically celebrated in all of Egypt by the visiting Greek historian Herodotus. Large catteries were maintained by the Temple priests and a vast cemetery of mummified cats has been excavated outside of Bubastis. Thousands of small cat sculptures, probably left with offerings to the Temple by devotees, have also been recovered at Bubastis.
According to CNN:
Seven tombs were discovered during the archaeological mission, which started in April. They included three tombs with dozens of cat mummies that can be traced back to the fifth and sixth dynasties thousands of years ago.Four other tombs were found, including one belonging to Khufu-Imhat, the overseer of buildings in the royal palace.A collection of scarab beetles was also unearthed in a section called the Memphis necropolis. Two of the insects were wrapped in linen inside a rectangular limestone sarcophagus decorated with paintings of large black beetles considered sacred in ancient Egypt.