A 2,500 year old ancient Egyptian bronze cat’s head tat was nearly thrown in the bin will go under the hammer at auction in Penzance this week.

Auctioneer David Lay found the cat, complete with gold earrings, during a house clearance near Penzance, with the "perfectly proportioned" piece expected to sell for as much as £10,000.

The bronze managed to make its way to Cornwall in the belongings of a one-time managing director of Spink & Son, one of London's oldest and greatest art dealing institutions, who had retired to Cornwall.

Mr Lay said: "Once in a while, quite unexpectedly, you come across something really special. It’s like Fate’s tapped you on the shoulder, gestured to a dusty box and said ‘chin up’, with an encouraging smile.

In this case, our ‘something really special’ was an unassuming looking Ancient Egyptian bronze cat’s head, discovered in a little old house near Penzance.

"It’s a majestic thing, greened with age, but you can still just about make out the patterned engraving to the neck, its lightly modelled whiskers and the lines around its big, wise eyes. It was sat on the mantlepiece, surveying the room, and when we first saw it, we couldn’t quite believe what we’d found.

 Cats were commonly revered in Egypt, partly due to their ability to combat vermin and cobras, but increasingly as a result of their supposed connection with the divine, and the cats of wealthy families were known to be dressed in elaborate golden jewellery. 

In the 26th dynasty (672-525BC), when the cat was probably created, it became common practice to sacrifice and then mummify sacred cats, who were then buried in special cemeteries with bronze caskets as a sign of devotion to the goddess.  Statuettes of cats were presented as votive offerings at temples, and sometimes placed in tombs to accompany their owner to the afterlife, which is most likely where the bronze came from.

When David took it to the British Museum for authentication, their world expert was not only able to positively identify it, but he was genuinely excited to see it. 

Mr lay added: "It’s outstandingly modelled, and tastefully engraved, suggesting it was commissioned by a patron on considerable means.  Quite a few have survived, because so many were made, but ours is remarkably fine – not quite what you’d expect to turn up in a small house in south western Cornwall."

The item is Lot 173 in the antiques sale on February 19/20.