Star Gazing In Dendera

The art and architecture of the ancient Egyptians is amazing enough. That they could also map the sky, nearly as well as it is done in the 21st century, is simply astounding!

A bas relief – the Zodiac of Dendera – that was found in the Temple of Hathor proves this beyond a doubt. This 8 feet square, sandstone ceiling panel from 50 BC, is reputed to be the worlds first horoscope that charts the movements of the stars and depicts the zodiac constellations, quite like we do today! And it comes replete with theories of encoded messages and ‘end of the world’ prophecies.

The Zodiac Ceiling of Dendera – (Image credit – Wikipedia)

If you want to see it though, you will have to plan a trip to Paris, for it was crudely pried out from the chapel of Osiris and transported to France in 1821. It now resides in the Louvre. In its place, is a plaster cast covered in soot, its details indistinguishable.

It is sad that so many of Egypt’s priceless artefacts – the ceiling mural from the tomb of Seti I, the bust of Nefertiti, the Rosetta stone, the Funeral Texts from the valley of the kings and so many, many more – lie outside her shores! Meanwhile the debate over whether they are safer in western museums or should be returned to where they rightfully belong, rages on.

Thankfully there is a lot more in Dendera, that could not possibly be carted away! The beautifully illustrated rectangular zodiac ceiling, in the vestibule with the 24 Hathor columns, is another gem! Hidden for years under the soot of ancient lamp black, was this fantastic ceiling relief depicting a celestial chart, with the signs of the zodiac in sequence, and the journey of the sun through the body of (sky goddess) Nut! Astronomical precision and mythological imagery at its very best!

Four sided Hathor capital, her features defaced by early Christians

Before and after (cleaning) picture of the central ceiling, alternately depicting flying vultures and winged sun discs with cobras, representing upper and lower Egypt.

Deities of the stars adoring the ‘Eye of Horus’! The right eye of Horus represents the Sun and indicates resurrection and protection

Showing half of the fantastic myth of the journey of the sun – Nut swallowing the winged sun disc! Note the sign of Sagittarius above.

The other half showing the deliverance of the sun at dawn from between her legs, in the form of “Khepri” the winged scarab! (A mirror image -not in pic – shows a winged orb!) The sun in Leo suggests this is 10000 years old, while it has actually been dated to the time of Cleopatra VII (50BC)!

“It is by her mouth that the majesty of this god
– that is to say, Ra — enters within the Duat.
Look at the picture, the disc which is at her mouth. [...] “

“After in the western horizon his majesty [Ra] sets,
they [the stars] enter into her mouth in the place
of her head in the west. [...]
It is within her that they travel in the day,
when they do not shine and are not seen.”
~ “Book of Nut”

Never occured to me to ask where he parks his barge and the dead souls travelling with him :-)


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