Ancient Greek Temple Dedicated to Cat Goddess Unearthed in Egypt

Egyptian archaeologists unearthed the remains of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Egyptian cat goddess Bastet in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the antiquities department said Tuesday.

The mission, led by Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, discovered the remains of a temple of Queen Berenike, the wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt between 246 and 222 B.C., in the Kom al Dikka area in Alexandria.

"The discovered remains are 196 feet tall and 49 feet in width," antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said in a statement. He said the temple was "subjected to destruction during later eras when it was used as a quarry, which led to the disappearance of many of its stone blocks."

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A group of 600 Ptolemaic statues were also unearthed during the routine excavations, including a large collection of icons depicting Bastet, goddess of protection and motherhood.

The discovery in Kom al Dikka is the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the goddess Bastet, Abdel Maqsoud was quoted as saying in the statement.

"It indicates that the worship of the goddess Bastet continued in Egypt after the decline of the ancient Egyptian era," he said.

The Ptolemaic period marks the Greek rule of Egypt from 305 B.C. until the Roman conquest in 30 B.C.

Alexandria became the capital city of Ptolemaic Egypt and thrived as the center of Greek culture and trade.