'Egyptian astronomy has been termed
"primitive" or "non-existent" far too many times: It is
therefore appropriate to
assemble the actual achievements of Egyptian astronomy and let the
facts speak for themselves. The ancients unencumbered by racism, could take
a more honest view of the matter: for example, Aristotle wrote: "...the
Egyptians and Babylonians have studied these matters thoroughly since time
immemorial, and through whom we have many reliable reports about each of the
The design on the ceiling
of Senenmut'stomb (Chamber
A, Tomb TT353), who was the chief architect and astronomer
during the reign of Queen Hatchepsut. (c. 1473-1458 B.C.),
is the oldest astronomical presentation known in Egypt (with the
possible exception of the Giza pyramids).
The Orientation of
The precise alignment of temples and
pyramids was undoubtedly a result of astronomical observation. (A
feature noticeably absent from Djoser's pyramid atSaqqara).
Sir Norman Lockyer suggested that several of the great Egyptian
temple complexes were orientated towards astronomically significant
points on the horizon. His theories are disputed to this day even
though there is now a substantial amount of supporting research in
favour of his original suppositions.
The astronomical division between
'Upper' and 'Lower' Egypt:
A clear division can be
identified between the orientation of ancient Egyptian temples of upper
Egypt when compared with those of Lower Egypt. Lockyer
(2), made note of the
fact that whereas the early dynastic northern 'Memphite' pyramids,
pyramids, and Sphinx were orientated cardinally to face equinoxial phases of
the solar cycle, the great temples in the south of Egypt, such as
the Colossi of Memnon and Abydoss, were all orientated to capture the
suns rays on Solstice days of the year.
It is interesting to note that both
the Valley temple (North) and the Osireion (south) appear to conform to this
The Valley temple,
Giza was associated with Isis (As evidenced by
the inscriptions on the 'Sphinx' stella). The
Osireion, which shows remarkable similarities
in construction, as seen below:
The location of certain prominent Egyptian
temples and complexes reinforces the idea that a knowledge of longitude and latitude
existed from at least the time of Karnack, if not from the time of
construction of Giza itself.
The Egyptians divided the stars into 36 "decans"
(each of which spanned 10° of a 360° circle). Each decan had its group of
associated stars (constellations). These stars are
represented in tombs and elsewhere.
The applications of early Egyptian astronomy are visible
in: (a) the orientation
of temples and pyramids: (b) the reorientation of temples; (c)
heliacal rising of Sirius, which was used by ancient
priests-astronomers in order to fix the New Year's Day and determine
the seasons of the civil year
Firsts: (A Chronology of Discovery).
The elements of the following compendium
all been separately discussed in journals and literature, but rarely are
they placed together in the sense of a mutual context. They are
listed in chronological order where possible.
The invention of the 365-day calendar,
based on astronomical observation - Mankind's first 'official' measurement of time.
The development probably took place at least as far back as 3,000 B.C.
The development of instruments of
quantitative astronomical measurement - These included the sundial,
water clocks, and the merkhet (which used a straight-edge and a plumb line,
which enabled measurements of stellar azimuths). (1)
It is clear that the Egyptians were
using their knowledge of the stars to assist them in their architectural
projects from the beginning of the pharaonic period (c.3100-332 BC), since
the ceremony of pedj-shes ('stretching the cord'), reliant
on astronomical knowledge, is first attested on a granite block of the
reign of the Second-Dynasty king Khasekhemwy (c.2650 BC).
Charles Piazzi Smyth in his 1878 book
"The Great Pyramid" recorded several relics found in the north shaft of
the Queens chamber by Dixon and Grant. These items were found in the
hermetically sealed north shaft broken into by a Bill Grundy under the
direction of W. Dixon. The relics were sent to Piazzi Smyth in a cigar
box where they were recorded in his diary with accompanying drawings and
sketches. Unfortunately, these relics are now lost to us, but it has
been suggested on several occasions that the brass hook, was probably a
form of Pesh-en-Khaf, a sighting device for stellar alignment.
Discovery of the precession of the
equinoxes - The "precession
of the equinoxes" refers to the very slow, cyclic
changes in the coordinates of the fixed stars that takes place with a period
of some 26,000 years (25,920). The discovery of this phenomena can be seen
through three different mediums:
The first is through the successive re-alignment of the axis of symmetry of various temples
as first noted
by Sir N. Lockyer, which showed that the Egyptians were aware of the change in positions
of the stars over the course of centuries. (The orientations of Egyptian
temples were set with extreme precision by astronomical observations in
accordance with their worship of the stars or the sun).
The second is in the suggestion
that a knowledge of Precession is suggested in the dimensions of the great
pyramid, which through accident or design, are a
particularly accurate scale model of the Earth's dimensions:
Which brings us to the third form in which evidence of precession is
displayed in the form of sacred figures stored in myths, texts and the
dimensions of sacred buildings. While this theory is not accepted by
there has been some serious research in this subject (i.e. Hamlets Mill: Santillano), and it should not be
dismissed out of hand.
(A new constellation appears on the horizon each 2,160 years...)
(...and 2,160 x 2 =
Knowledge of stellar constellations
- At least 43 constellations were familiar to the Egyptians in the 13th
century B.C. (1).
oldest known copies of an almanac date from 1220 BC at the time of Ramses
the Great. In 1100 BC Amenhope wrote "Catalog of the Universe" in which he
identified the major known constellations.
The writing of
astronomical texts - Clement of Alexandria gives the titles of four Egyptian astronomy books
(which have not survived): a) On the Disposition of Fixed Stars and Stellar
Phenomena, b) On the Disposition of the Sun, Moon and Five Planets, c) On
the Syzergies and Phases of the Sun and Moon, d) On Risings. These texts may
not have been intended for publication, but were available only to the
priesthood, which forbade the general exposure of their philosophy. This may
help to explain why so little of Egyptian science has come down to us
directly from the Egyptians, rather than indirectly from the Greeks such as
Pythagoras, who was initiated into the Egyptian mysteries.
Tables of star culminations and risings.
Knowledge of planetary astronomy
- Five planets were known to the Egyptians; the retrograde motion of
Mars was known; the revolution of Mercury and Venus around the Sun was
Prediction of eclipses.
Discovery of the occulations of
the stars and planets by the dark side of the half-moon.
Discovery that the Earth
is spherical - The first (official) measurement of the radius of the earth was made by Erasthenes
(b. 275 B.C.), who was the head of the great library of Alexandria.
He was born in Cyrene, now Libya. It seems likely that the ancient
Egyptians, much before Egypt's conquest by Alexander the great, had
already grasped the idea of a spherical Earth, and it was from them
that this doctrine was adopted by Pythagoras, who, as we know, spent
many years of study in Egypt.
Discovery of the obliquity of the
ecliptic - Diodorus Siculus (70 B.C.) reports that Egyptian priests
claimed it was from Oenopides of Chios that we learned the sun moved in an inclined
orbit and oppositely to the motion of the other stars. In this connection,
it should be noted that the priority of Oenopides claim to this discovery is
disputed by Pythagoras. In view of the fact that both Pythagoras and
Oenopides went to Egypt to study astronomy, it would seem only fair to give
their Egyptian teachers at least some of the credit.
proof that the angular diameters of the sun and moon re unequal -
Sosigenes (2nd Cent. A.D),
the Egyptian astronomer who gave Europe the Julian calendar, showed
that the angular diameters are unequal by advertising to the
phenomena of annular eclipses of the sun.
First use of the Clepsydra (water clock), to measure the angular
diameter of the sun.
Discovery of the conjunction of the
planets with each other as well as the fixed stars -
This is on the testimony of Aristotle in
The Heliocentric theory of the rotation of the earth and other
planets about the sun.
'The discovery of
megalithic alignments and stone circles next to locations of Middle and
Late Neolithic communities at Nabta, suggest the early development of a
complex society. The ceremonial complex of Nabta, dating to the Fifth millenium BC, has alignments to cardinal and solstice directions, was a very
early megalithic expression of ideology and astronomy. Five megalithic
alignments within the playa deposits radiate outwards from megalithic
structures. The organization of the megaliths suggests a symbolic
geometry that integrated death, water, and the Sun'.
Apart from the obvious evidences of astronomy in
the 'Polar' passages of the pyramids and the orientation of
the Sphinx, Giza
demonstrates several other instances of astronomical influences at
the time of construction.
It is a well known fact that
the N/S axis of the Khufu (Cheops) is only 03' 06" to the west of
true north, a fact which confirms the levels of skill/accuracy
attained by the ancient Egyptian astronomers
It has been noted that (Through accident or design),
Great pyramid of
is a particularly accurate scale model (1:43,200),
of the Earth's dimensions.
The number 43,200 is a specific 'precessionary'
number, one of several that are repeated in Egyptian myth, text and
cycle lasts approximately 25,920 years, which results in a new constellation
appearing on the horizon each 2,160 years....
and 2,160 x 2 =
It seems unlikely that
when combined with the other specific geometric and astronomic figures in
the dimensions at Giza, that the site was chosen for its latitude
accidentally. The same latitude was chosen by the Persians (Persopolis), The
Sumerians, (Larsa), and the Tibetans (Lhasa) for their sacred centres.
The original Egyptian zodiac.
The Astronomical significance of the three small pyramids next to
In the common
opinion of Egyptologists, the small pyramids next to the great
pyramid of Khufu served as burial places for the relatives of the
Pharaoh. Certain facts, which have not been previously considered,
indicate that there is a chance that the pyramids — due to their
ground plan arrangement — are not only burial places but also the
components of a yearly calendar. Research by the Hungarian architect
Göczey has demonstrated that there are clear alignments between
Khufu's pyramid and the three smaller burial pyramids of his
relatives. The Basic Principles of the 'Khufu Calendar' are as
Göczey has demonstrated that when the three smaller pyramids
were complete, the apex's of their shadows would have cast a
'shadow point' on the Great pyramid at significant times of the
year (The solstices and Equinoxes). The YouTube video above
demonstrates the procedure in its basic form.
According to ancient Egyptian mythology,
after his death Osiris became the constellation Orion.
later found many connections between the Orion constellation and
the way ancient Egyptians built the Pyramids. For example, Orion's
"belt" of three stars in the middle matches the arrangement of the
three Pyramids on the Giza Strip (including the Great Pyramid), a
feature also seen in both Chinese and South American pyramids.
This idea first entered the public imagination in the 1970's by
(3), and was later revived by
In ancient Egypt, the rising of the star Sothis
(Sirius, the "Dog Star") with the Sun in the summer foretold the
annual flooding of the Nile River at the capital, Memphis.
Egyptians found that the stars were more accurate over thousands
of years than their solar calendar of 365 days. Because the
Egyptian calendar did not have leap years, their year cycled
through the seasons completely every 365 times 4, or 1460 years.
This was known as a "Cycle of Sothis" because Sothis (Sirius)
would rise with the Sun on the same day every 1460 years. Actually
because of precession of the equinoxes and proper motion of Sirius
the period was slightly less, but Egyptians found this cycle of
Although the Egyptians knew of this quarter-day
error, they maintained their 365-day calendar for ceremonial
reasons. Their year was divided into twelve 30-day months,
followed by a five day feast period that was not considered lucky
for any work. Over ancient Egypt's history of at least three
thousand years, the months completely rotated through the seasons
at least twice.
Van Sertima. Journal of African Civilisations. Vol 12. Spring, 1994.2). J. N. Lockyer.
The Dawn of Astronomy. 1964. M.I.T. Press3).
Hurtak, The Book of Knowledge: The Keys of Enoch.
Los Gatos: The Academy for Future Science, 1973.