A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hieroglyphic Cats from Ancient Crete

Cats in History

We stumbled upon an interesting little tidbit earlier this week. At first we didn’t even believe it and thought it must be one of those alternative facts that are so easy to find on the internet. But a little digging brought us to some reputable sources, so we are ready to tell you that the so-called Cretan Hieroglyphic writing system (not related to the more famous Egyptian hieroglyphs) included pictures of cats. This system, from the Mediterranean island of Crete, arose around 2000 BC. It has not been deciphered, so no one is 100% sure what the cat pictures mean—but there is a guess at the end of this post!

Map of Greece and Crete
Just where is Crete? Follow the red arrow. The island
is roughly southeast of mainland Greece.
Image via Adobe Stock.

The cat pictures

Seal of green jasper with Cretan Hieroglyphic writing
including a stylized cat's head.
Photo by Ingo Pini [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.
The cat pictures in Cretan Hieroglyphics took different forms. Sometimes a full cat’s body was depicted, sometimes just a stylized cat’s head. In Linear A, the next writing system to come along on Crete, there was still a cat’s head symbol, but it was much more stylized, with something that looks roughly like a head with eyes, pointy ears, and sometimes a mouth. Linear A was used from about 1850 to 1400 BC and overlapped with Cretan Hieroglyphic for many years. Then, in about 1600 BC, came Linear B. Linear B also used a cat’s head, but you sort of have to use your imagination to see the cat. This is because it is basically all ears.

By the way, all three writing systems were named by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.

What did the cat figures mean?

Broadly, hieroglyphic writing is any system where the characters are pictures of recognizable things. The individual pictures can represent the thing they depict (a crow symbol could mean “crow”), or they could represent a sound (a crow symbol could mean “caw”—and obviously we are sort of making this up as a general example).

While we don’t know for sure what the cat in Cretan Hieroglyphic writing meant, Pippa Steele of the CREWS Project says we can sort of guess by working backward from Linear B, which has been deciphered. All of these systems are syllabic, so the symbols represent sounds—and the sound that the Linear B cat’s head represents is “ma.” Steele says that the symbol and its sound likely came from Linear A. It’s possible that the Cretan Hieroglyphic cat also stood for “ma” or something very similar.

Detail from a table of Cretan Hieroglyphic signs.
The cat is number 75.
From The Palace of Minos, Sir Arthur Evans.
Digitized by Internet Archive Book Images
[No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons. 

Wouldn’t it just make sense that someone would draw a cat to represent something like the sound a cat makes? And let’s not forget that the ancient Egyptian word for “cat” was “miu,” so who knows—maybe the people of Crete called cats “mau” or “maur” or something.

Versions of the Linear A and B cat signs.
Adapted from illustrations in Steele 2017.


Steele, Pippa. 2017. “Cats in the Aegean Scripts.” CREWS Project website, August 7. https://crewsproject.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/cats-in-the-aegean-scripts/.

“Linear A and Linear B.” Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Linear-A#ref106905


  1. Take that You Tube, cats don't need you.

  2. Ever neat! If you ask me, the hieroglyphics of cats are the very best kind. PURRS

  3. I remember studying Sir Arthur Evans in school, in my archaeology classes. Am pretty sure no one mentioned cats in the hieroglyphics back then!

  4. de green seel lookz ta uz like....honk de horn eye seez a cat !!!! :) ♥♥☺☺

  5. Amazing info ! Thanks for sharing !

  6. I LOVE it! purrhaps the Creteans though we were gods too!

  7. Very interesting post. The Cat Scouts did a huge project on hieroglyphs, one of your cats could get a badge for this research- Webster, you should join :) XO