Image: Bastet statue
The ancient cat-goddess Bastet was found amongst the temple's ruins in the Kom el-Dekkah area of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
updated 1/19/2010 11:01:08 AM ET 2010-01-19T16:01:08

Egypt said Tuesday that its archaeologists have unearthed a Ptolemaic-era temple dating back more than 2,000 years, that may have been dedicated to the ancient cat goddess, Bastet.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities said the temple's ruins were discovered in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the seat of the dynasty founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C., that ended with the suicide of Cleopatra 300 years later.

The statement said the temple was thought to belong to Queen Berenice, wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt in the 3rd century B.C.

Mohammed Abdel-Maqsood, the Egyptian archaeologist who led the excavation team, said the discovery may be the first trace of the long-sought location of Alexandria's royal quarter.

The large number of statues depicting Bastet found in the ruins, he said, indicated that this may be the first Ptolemaic temple discovered in Alexandria to be dedicated to the cat goddess.

That also suggests that the worship of the cat-goddess continued in Egypt during the later, more Greek-influenced, Ptolemaic period, he said. Statues of other ancient Egyptian deities also present, he added.

Zahi Hawas, Egypt's chief archaeologist, said the temple may have been used in later times as a quarry and that this was evidenced by the large number of missing stone blocks.

Modern Alexandria was built squarely on top of the ruins of the classical-era city and many of the great temples, palaces and libraries of that time remain undiscovered.

The temple was found in the Kom el-Dekkah neighborhood near the city's main train station and is also the site of a Roman-era amphitheater and well preserved mosaics.

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