African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica) lurking in the undergrowth

Egypt, Beni Hassan, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), Upper Cemetery, East wall.

Representations of cats (Egyptian name: mi-uw) are rare in Egyptian art until the Middle Kingdom period. Like earlier images, the Beni Hassan cat's striped coat and tail show that it is an African wild cat, a precursor to the domesticated cat. A few hundred years after this painting was made, however, domesticated cats became common in Egypt. The Beni Hassan cat stares intensely at Khnumhotep as he hunts in the marshes, foreshadowing a growing connection between humans and cats that has lasted until the present day.

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, Reign of Amenemhat II (c. 1918-1884 BCE).
Egypt, Beni Hassan, Upper Cemetery, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), East wall, south of entrance to shrine.
Polychrome paint on limestone (photograph).
Relief (photograph).
Parent Context
Data Credits
Compiled by Linda Evans and the Beni Hassan Research Group with resources from the Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre, and the Australian Centre for Egyptology.
Project Funding
Supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project scheme: DP160102223 "Measuring meaning in Egyptian art: A new approach to an intractable problem" held by N. Kanawati (MQ), L. Evans (MQ), A. Woods (MQ) and J. Kamrin (Met), the Macquarie University Department of Ancient History, and the Macquarie University Faculty of Arts.
Original Citation
N. Kanawati & L. Evans, Beni Hassan: Volume I: The Tomb of Khnumhotep II (Australian Centre for Egyptology: Reports 36, Aris and Phillips, Oxford, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-85668-846-1), pls. 70a, 100b (photograph),
Recorded and published with permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Photographs by Effy Alexakis as part of research on site. Copyright Macquarie University 2018. All rights reserved.
Cite this
Linda Evans "African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica) lurking in the undergrowth." In The Beni Hassan Visual Dictionary: Khnumhotep II, edited by Alexandra Woods, Brian Ballsun-Stanton, and Nicolle Leary. Sydney: Macquarie University, 2018.