Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat Ta Miu

Prince Thutmose is best remembered for the limestone sarcophagus of his beloved cat, Ta-miu (she-cat). The body of this sarcophagus is completely decorated with scenes, while the lid is inscribed with hieroglyphs. It shows the cat sitting before an offering table heaped with goodies for the afterlife.

It seems that her owner, Crown Prince Thutmose, wanted her to enjoy her time after death as much as she had appreciated being a cosseted royal pet in life. The back of the sarcophagus shows a cat at a table laden with offerings and a lotus flower, the sign of resurrection and rebirth.

Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat Ta-Miu
Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat Ta-Miu

Little is known about how Ta-Miu met her end, but after her death, she was mummified. Her sarcophagus tells us most of what we know about the short life of Crown Prince Thutmose.

The sides of the sarcophagus are decorated with scenes of the goddess Isis kneeling on a stool in the shape of the Nebu or gold symbol in hieroglyphs. On the left, a god holds two Nu jars for pouring libations.

There are two reasons to mummify a cat, the first of these is to provide a pet with a caring burial (like Ta-miu), and the second, more common reason is for ritual purposes.

The front of the sarcophagus depicts a large cat standing in front of a table heaped with different kinds of offerings including bread, beer, beheaded geese, and the foreleg of an ox. Behind the cat stands the cat goddess Bastet, completely wrapped.

Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat Ta-Miu, detail
Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat Ta-Miu, detail

The prince who loved his cat

Ancient Egyptians were were serious cat people, they often buried with mummified animals and animal statues. It was seen as a way for the dead to bring pets with them to the afterlife.

Djhutmose (Thutmose) was so fond of his cat Ta-miu (she-cat) that he had a fine limestone sarcophagus carved for her, had her body mummified and then carefully buried.

Crown Prince Thutmose, the eldest son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. He was designated as king Amenhotep III’s successor but predeceased his father. His younger brother, Amenhotep IV or Akhenaten, assumed the throne instead.

Sarcophagus of Ta-Miu
Sarcophagus of Ta-Miu

Cats played an important role in Egyptian religion, and were associated with Amun. They were also household pets and could be valuable in controlling snakes and rodents.

The ancient Egyptians were drawn to felines’ hunting prowess and their ability to protect their young. Egyptians believed cats were magical creatures, capable of bringing good luck to the people who housed them.

To honor these treasured pets, wealthy families dressed them in jewels and fed them treats fit for royalty. A number of animals including cats were mummified to serve as ritual offerings to the gods. Cats were often offered to the cat goddess Bastet as votives, with the practice of mummifying animals peaking in the 1st Millenium BC.

Huge numbers of animals were often stored on mass in underground galleries. As this was done on such a large scale, most of the mummified cats which were offered as votives were kittens, this was so that the temple could continue to produce these votives without spending unnecessary time raising an adult cat.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III, ca. 1391-1353 BC. From Memphis. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 30172