Miss Cuddlywumps investigates the sarcophagus of Tamyt, Prince Djehutymose’s Cat
In our modern world, it seems perfectly normal for humans to have pet cats and to look after the cats' well-being even after death. You humans inter your beloved pets in special cemeteries or keep their cremains near you in special urns. Know that when you do this, you are carrying on a practice that began in Egypt over 3,000 years ago.
In ancient Memphis (south of Giza) in the 14th century BC, there was a prince named Djehutymose (or Thutmose). As the eldest son of the pharaoh Amenhotep III (c. 1391–1353 BC), Djehutymose was designated to succeed his father as pharaoh. Unfortunately, the prince died before his father and so never became pharaoh. One of the main ways we know about Djehutymose is through the sarcophagus of his pet cat, Tamyt.
The sarcophagus of Prince Djehutymose’s cat, Tamyt.
This view shows Tamyt before a table of offerings including a duck and some vegetables.
A cat mummy stands behind her.
The sarcophagus of the prince’s cat
Prince Djehutymose’s cat was interred in a small limestone sarcophagus (a stone coffin) near the end of Amenhotep III’s reign (c. 1353 BC). This seems to be about the time the prince himself died, and it is possible the cat was killed so she could accompany her human in death, but we don’t know that for sure.
This sarcophagus is inscribed with the prince’s name and titles (“Crown Prince, Overseer of the Priests of Upper and Lower Egypt, High Priest of Ptah in Memphis”). More importantly for us, the inscriptions also include Tamyt’s name (which means simply “She-Cat”). The cat is depicted on two sides of the coffin: on one side she is seated in front of a table piled with offerings that include a duck and some vegetables; a second side shows a similar scene, only now a cat mummy stands behind Tamyt.
The writings on the sarcophagus tell us how the goddesses Isis and Nephthys will protect Tamyt in the afterlife. Tamyt’s limbs “shall not be weary.” On the corners are the names of four “Sons of Horus,” who will protect her body. On the lid, Tamyt addresses the sky goddess and expresses her wish to become an imperishable star (this refers to the belief that the dead went into the sky to become stars).
The life of Tamyt
The evidence tells us that Tamyt was Prince Djehutymose’s pet. Why else would such care have been taken to ensure her safety and happiness in the afterlife?
We can’t say much directly about her life, and we are left to imagine that she played with her prince and provided the kind of joy and comfort only a cat can. Perhaps Tamyt brought him little “presents” of dead mice, insects, or even snakes. Perhaps she was the only creature he knew who interacted with him not as a prince but as just another human.
That’s what we imagine, and it may not be exactly true, but we hope Tamyt had a good life, and we hope she ascended into the heavens to become an imperishable star.
Malek, Jaromir. The Cat in Ancient Egypt. Rev. ed. London: British Museum Press, 2006, pp. 123–24.
Wikipedia. “Thutmose (prince).”