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Ask the Experts

A MOGGY MUMMY This mummified cat is at the British Museum, London

68 The number of years that the papacy resided in Avignon instead of Rome in the 14th century. Seven popes reigned during that period.

Why were cats so important in Ancient Egypt?

While the Ancient Egyptians depicted many gods and goddesses with the characteristics of different animals, they perhaps admired no creature more than the cat. So, if the internet is anything to go by, nothing much has changed.

But while we love moggies for their companionship, Egyptian society fell in love with them for their skills at keeping the snake, rat, mice and scorpion populations down. As a sign of how highly they regarded cat hunting skills, the cat-headed goddess Mafdet (who goes back to the fourth millennium BC) was thought to protect people and their homes against these dangerous or food-spoiling pests. Mafdet would later be replaced by Bastet, and the city of Bubastis became a centre of worship for this goddess of cats. Hundreds of thousands descended on the temple there every year for the festival of Bast, which the visiting Greek historian Herodotus described as one of the most popular in all of Egypt.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

Imagine, if you can, a mystery bug appearing out of nowhere – one with no cure or treatment and that kills nearly everyone infected in just a matter of days. !en consider one-in-three people in Britain being struck down by it over the course of two years. Unthinkable, isn’t it? And yet that’s exactly what happened halfway through the 14th century. Where did this killer plague, Black Death, come from? How did it spread? And what was it like to live through these unutterable days? We reveal all from page 28. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom to see in the new year, as we celebrate some of history’s greatest pioneers this issue, from the extraordinary salvagers of Henry VIII’s favourite ship, the Mary Rose (p46", to those magnificent men who took their flying machines into the skies (p56", to the remarkable women whose mathematical genius allowed the US to send men to the Moon (p69". We’ve also given the magazine a bit of a spring clean, taking all your comments on board, and introduced a few new regular features. I hope you like what we’ve done – do write in and let us know. Happy new Year!