Category Archives: Egypt

The Hall K of Seti I’s tomb

Seti I was pharaoh of Egypt around the year 1290 BC and he was the second king of the Nineteenth Dynasty to which his son Ramses II belonged. His tomb has the reference KV17 in the King’s Valley and it’s another extant example of astronomical ceiling divided in two panels. One of them have 35 columns and in the first 23 columns we find the decans with their numbers of stars and their representative gods and goddesses. For example, column 22 describes Orion and column 18 describes the Egg. There also are Jupiter, Saturn and a retrograding Mars behind Isis in columns 24-26 and Mercury and Venus are described in columns 34 and 35:

In the other panel we have the circumpolar constellations in the central part between two series of gods and goddesses walking to the center of the picture:

Font: Wikimedia Commons

At the right we can see the Hippopotamus with the crocodile holding a cane where there are two ropes tied to the bull’s tail. This bull represents the Ursa Major and there is the goddess Serqet in front of it who has a falcon next to her feet. Below this falcon there is the Lion and the crocodile and the man fighting as we have also seen in Senenmut’s tomb. A man with a solar disk on his head is holding the ropes and Anu is standing on the cane.

Location: Seti I’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings (map)

Advertisements

The decans in Senenmut’s tomb

Font: Wikimedia Commons

The Egyptians divided the stars of the night sky in different constellations (called “decans”) in a similar way that we do today. All these constellations traveled through the sky on ships. We have some examples of representations of these decans in the painted ceilings of different Egyptian tombs and we can establish that the number of them from one tomb to another. However it seems that there were 36 decans which always were painted.Egyptians divided the whole year in 5 days plus 36 periods of 10 days corresponding to the 10 days of consecutive risings of the decans:

  1. tpc-knmwt. A set of three stars represented by a man with a solar disk on his head. It is associated to Geb.
  2. knmwt. A boat with a head of a snake in the ship’s bow with a standing boy with one finger in his mouth. It is associated to Isis or Ba.
  3. hr-hpt-knmwt. A set of three stars represented by a tailed man with a bird’s head with a double crown.  It is associated to Isis or Horus’ sons.
  4. h3t-d3t. A set of four stars represented by a falcon-headed man with two big feathers.  It is associated to Isis or Hours’ sons.
  5. phwy-d3t. A set of three stars represented by a man with a white crown on his head and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Horus’ sons.
  6. tm3-hrt. A set of three stars represented by a man with two big feathers on his head and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Duamutef or Mesti.
  7. tm3-hrt. A set of three stars represented by a falcon-headed man with horns and a solar disk over them. He also holds a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Duamutef or Qeehsenuef.
  8. wsti. A man with the solar disk rounded by a royal snake.  It is associated to Duamutef.
  9. bk3ti. A man with the double crown and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Duamutef.
  10. tp-c-hntt. Two stars represented by a falcon-headed man with a solar disk on his head and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Duamutef or Hapy.
  11. hntt-hrt. A set of two stars represented by a tailed man with a stick and a scourge in his hands.  It is associated to Horus.
  12. hntt-hrt. A set of four aligned stars represented by the four aligned stars, a head and an arm on a ship.  It is associated to Seth.
  13. tms-n-hntt. Three aligned stars represented by a baboon on a ship in front of a lunar disk.  It is associated to Horus.
  14. s3pt-hnnw. A set of two stars represented by a falcon-headed man with a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Isis or Nephtis.
  15. hr-ib-wi3. A set of four stars represented by a falcon-headed man with a solar disk on his head and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Seth or Ur.
  16. shsmw. Two stars represented by a man with a snake and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Seth or Ur.
  17. knmw. A headless man with a solar disk on his shoulders.  It is associated to Hapy or Duamutef.
  18. smdt. Three stars represented by a tailed man with a double crown.  It is associated to Horus.
  19. tpc-smdt. A tailed man with a double crown.  It is associated to Hapy.
  20. srt. A set of four stars represented by a falcon-headed man with the ateph crown and an animal tail in his skirt.  It is associated to Isis.
  21. s3wy-srt. Two stars represented by a woman with a scepter in her hand.  It is associated to Duamutef.
  22. hr-hpt-srt. A tailed man with a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Qebehsenuef.
  23. 3hwy. A tailed jackal headed man with a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Duamutef.
  24. b3wy. A set of three stars represented by a tailed ibis headed man with the ateph crown and a scepter in his hands.  It is associated to Duamutef.
  25. hnt-hrw. A tailed falcon-headed man with a tadpole.  It is associated to Hapy or Mesti.
  26. hr-ib-hntw. A tailed falcon-headed man.  It is associated to Horus.
  27. hnt-hwr. A boy with one of his fingers in his mouth sitting on a lotus flower.  It is associated to Horus.
  28. kd. Three stars represented by a boy with one of his fingers in his mouth sitting on a lotus flower and a solar disk on his head.  It is associated to Horus.
  29. s3wy-kd. Two stars represented by a tailed man with the ateph crown and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Horus.
  30. crt. A tailed man with a papyrus plant.  It is associated to Qebehsenuef.
  31. h3w. Four stars represented by a tailed falcon-headed man with the double crown.  It is associated to Hapy.
  32. rmn-hrw-inw-s3h. 18 stars represented by a tailed man with the white crown and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Mesti.
  33. msdr-s3h. A lioness headed woman with a royal snake and a crosier in her hand.  It is associated to Duamutef.
  34. rmn-hr-s3h. Three stars represented by a man with the white crown with a feather sitting on a throne.  It is associated to Horus.
  35. c-s3h. An ibis headed man with the ateph crown and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to Horus.
  36. s3h. Its corresponding is Orion and it’s represented by two ships. On the first one there are three people: a boy with one of his fingers in his mouth and a double crown on his head, a horned woman with a solar disk on her head and another woman with two feathers and the solar disk between them. On the other ship there is a snake in a lotus flower.  It is associated to Maat-Horus.
  37. spdt. Its corresponding is Sirius and it’s represented by a tailed falcon-headed man with a solar disk on his head and a scepter in his hand.  It is associated to isis.

The first three decans (knmwt) are associated with Canis Major and Cancer, d3t with Leo, tm3wsti and bk3ti with Virgo, hntt, s3pt-hnnw and hr-ib-wi3 with Scorpio, shsmw and knmw with Serpens, smdt and srt with Capricorn and Aquila, b3wy with Pisces, hnt-hwr with Aries and kd and h3w with Taurus.

Sesenmut was an important official who worked very close to the queen Hatshepsut (c. 1450 BC). He decided to be buried near her queen’s tomb and the ceiling of his burial monument (see the first picture) is an example of the decans explained above. The sky representation consists in two panels separated by five horizontal lines with prayers for Senenmut. In one of the panels (see picture below) we can distinguish perfectly the constellations Ship and Ram at the bottom right part. The Ship is described in top lines 7-12 from the right to the left and the Ram in top lines 14-16; lines 21-23 describe the Egg represented in the middle of the panel; lines 24-28 describe Orion with its three aligned stars and line 29 shows Isis with the crown with two feathers representing Sirius.

Therefore, lines 3o and 31 represent Horus as a star crossing the sky and they are associated with Jupiter and Saturn respectively. After them the constellation Turtle is described in line 32 and lines 33-37 describe five decans more. Finally Mercury and Venus are in the last lines with a representation of a bird called benu with a star in its head for Venus.

The second panel contains twelve circles divided in 24 circular sectors which correspond with the 12 months of the lunar year. In the middle of the picture the circumpolar constellations are represented. First of all we distinguish the top bull which is the Ursa Major with the stars delta, epsilon and zeta painted in its tail. At its back there is a woman with a solar disk and a scorpion on her head who represents the constellation Serqet (which has stars in Draco and Ursa Minor). We also observe a little crocodile over the scorpion. The bull is looking at falcon-headed god called Anu who is identified with the Swan:

At the bottom we see a crocodile and a man fighting which represent respectively some stars of Ursa Minor and some stars of Draco. There is a lion with crocodile tail over them and another crocodile over the lion. In the other side of the two rays which point to the bull’s tail there is the goddess Hippopotamus (Isis-Dyamut) who has a vertical crocodile in her left hand and a cane in her right hand. There is also a crocodile in her back and all the set could be the representation of some stars of Bootes, Lyra, Hercules and Draco.

Finally there are two series of gods walking to the center. From the left side to the right, the gods and goddess are Iremaua, Tekenu, Shedjeru, Nehes, Aaner, Imysehne-cher and Horhekenu. Behind the Hippotamus there are Isis with Horus’ four sons: Imseti, Hapy (baboon), Duamutef (jackal) and Qebehsenuef (falcon). Behind them there are Maintef (without hands), Irendyetef (without arms), Irrenefdyesef and Haqu.

Location: Senenmut’s tomb (map)

The Pyramid of Khufu

Font: Wikimedia Commons

The Pharaonic Egypt was located between latitudes 24º and 32º in the northern hemisphere just over the Tropic of Cancer so all the Egyptians could observe the circumpolar stars in the night sky. It’s well known that the life after death was very important for Egyptians and they believed that their souls went to the region of the night sky where the stars were always visible. Therefore, Egyptian began to improve their astronomical knowledge so they could orient their burial monuments as the great pyramids. Khufu lived around the XXVth century BC and he decided to be buried in a majestic monument which could be the most wonderful building that was ever built. Some years later the pharaohs Khafre and Menkaure (also in the Fourth Dinasty) decided to be buried next to Khufu and ordered to build pyramids for their respectively sarcophagus. The result was the Giza Necropolis and if we observe it carefully we will be able to find some astronomical details which are important to know. For example, the four sides of the Great Pyramid are oriented according to the four cardinal points (the north side has a deviation of 2’28” on the terrestrial parallel and the deviation of the south side is only 1’57”; the east side has a deviation of 5’30” on the terrestrial meridian and the deviation of the west side is 2’30”).

Font: GoogleEarth

Furthermore, the pyramid has two corridors from the Pharaoh’s room and two more corridors from the Queen’s room. As the pyramid is perfectly oriented, these four corridors drawn to some specific stars of the meridian. The northern corridor from the Pharaoh’s room (right corridor in the picture) points to Alpha Draconis which was next to the pole point in 2500 BC. This star was called “The Immortal” and it was the exact place where the Pharaoh’s soul was supposed to go after the royal death. The meridian corridor from the Pharaoh’s room points to Orion’s Bell and the northern and meridian corridors from the Queen’s room point to the stars Beta Ursa Minor and Sirius, respectively.

Font: http://guardians.net/hawass

Therefore the Great Pyramid is like a very old astronomical observatory.

Location: Pyramid of Khufu (map)