The picture above is the ceiling view of the zodiac of Denderah (Egypt) which is speculated to begin with the sign of Leo at the vernal equinox. If this would be true then it would cover the period of 10,950-8,800 B.C.
To see another view of the above picture with more detail click here.
The following information was added to this page on March 25, 2004 for some general information about Denderah.
The Ancient Egyptians divided the night sky into 36 groups of stars, star-gods or constellations, known as decans, which rose above the horizon at dawn for a period of ten days every year. The dog star Sirius (goddess Sopdet, Septet) was the most important one.
The ceilings of many royal tombs show the decans moving across the sky in boats. Some painted wooden coffin lids of the early Middle Kingdom, and also the Late Period, show calendars consisting of 36 columns, that list the 36 decans and the rising period of each. This calendar was flawed because its year was six hours short, thus losing ten days every 40 years.
Since the Egyptians had a zodiac with 36 decans, some speculate that the Greeks took the Babylonian zodiac and added their own ideas to create the round zodiac ceiling from the temple of Hathor at Denderah. This proposes that the outer ring of 36 decans stars is in concordance with the Greek astrological zodiac.
Some claim that no one has ever identified which stars create the patterns these figures are supposed to represent, since there is no standard reasoning for the variations.
One source claims the temple of Hathor at Denderah dates to Ptolemaic times, probably the first century B.C. The temple contains two representations of the heavens, a round zodiac ceiling (i.e. Denderah Zodiac) and a square zodiac (i.e. Grand Temple) in the outer hypostyle hall.
The earliest lists of decans were found on a dozen coffins at Asyut, dating from about 2,000 B.C. The list have differences, and Otto Neugebauer and Richard A. Parker classified all the lists they found into two main groups. The decans on the round zodiac ceiling from Denderah are from a group that they called the Tanis group, dated to the 26th dynasty (664-525 B.C.). It was noted that three new decans appear for the first time in this group, while four decans reappear from an earlier time.
In 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte after controlling Egypt for military advantage over the British, and with the help of Claude-Louis Berthollet, whom commissioned 167 of the top scientist, technicians, mathematicians, astronomers, chemist, engineers, mineralogists, naturalist, botanist, surgeons, physicians, artist, musicians, writers and antiquarians and produced nineteen volumes of the Description de l'Egypte (1,809-1,828 A.D.). In this group was Vivant Denon, who became Director of the Louvre in Paris, as a diplomat and artist, and provided many illustrations that led to a foundation for serious study of Egyptology. This event led to the decipher of the trilingual inscriptions found on the Rosetta Stone, in Greek, Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Demotic by the French scholar Jean Francois Champollion. Hieroglyphs used as early as 3,100 B.C., and in their pictorial form were already used as a script to convey a language, with its own syntax, grammar and vocabulary. Hireratic a cursive script was developed as a simplified version of a hieroglyphic sign and used until 800 B.C. From 700 B.C., another cursive script, Demotic evolved from Hieratic.
The following was added on March 31, 2005 in regard to the Round Zodiac.
In "The Dawn of Astronomy" a study of the temple-worship and mythology of the Ancient Egyptians by J. Norman Lockyer, New York, The McMillian Company 1897, as seen on page 138-143, "Biot, one of the most eminent astronomers of his day ... calculating back what the position of the stars would have been at midnight on the 20th of June (Gregorian) 700 B.C."
"... Brugsch, who is now regarded as one of the highest authorities in Egyptian history, has shown that almost every detail seen in the zodiac of Denderah reproduces inscriptions or astronomical figures, unearthed since the date of Biot's memoir, which without doubt, must be referred to the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty -- that is, 1,700 B.C. or thereabouts."
"The next point to notice is connected with the astronomical drawings which have been found in the Ramesseum at Thebes - drawings which also have very obvious connections with the zodiac of Denderah. On these we find hieroglyphs for the different months - the constellation Orion, Hippopotamus, and Jackal, as we saw them at Denderah, and other form of the constellation of the Thigh."
"The month-table at Thebes tells us that the sun's journey in relation to some of the zodiac constellations was perfectly familiar 5,000 years ago (est. 3,285 B.C.)."
He continues on page 299, "Now to return to Denderah in the light of the preceding discussion ... the temple of Isis, ..., does not contain emblems of the Sirius worship, but that all these appear in the temple of Hathor, which, of course, pointing as it does to the north-east, could never have received any light from a star south of the equator. There has been a change of cult."
He continues on page 301, "... at some epoch observations of the star Sirius replaced, or were added to, those made of g Draconis. Mythologically, a new Isis would be born."
"In Egypt 'was the fight for supremacy between the priest of Amen and the priest of Set?' At Denderah the former were ultimately victorius, and hence the change of cult."
The Northern Stars were: a Ursa Majoris, g Draconis, Capella, Spica.
The Southern Stars were: Phact, a Centauri, Canopus, Sirius.
Hathor is the goddess of love, tombs and the sky. As a daughter of Ra, an aspect of Isis, sometimes mother and wife of Horus. She is usually shown as a cow, or a woman with cow’s horns between which are the solar disc and two feathers. She was queen of the west, protectress of the necropolis of Thebes. As Isis (ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility, the sister and wife of Osiris), or Hathor (the goddess of love and women, who liked to sit under a sycamore tree, associated with queens, such as Khuit and Iput), or Astarte (a Near Eastern goddess traditionally associated with love and fertility). Her main temples were at Dendera (Denderah), Edfu and Ombos.
In "The Dawn of Astronomy" a study of the temple-worship and mythology of the Ancient Egyptians by J. Norman Lockyer, New York, The McMillian Company 1897, as seen on page 37-38, "We also find, more or less indeterminely from inscriptions in some graves of Thebes, that the daily risings of the chief stars were observed very carefully throughout the year. Unfortunately the inscriptions in question are very difficult to coordinate. There have been various efforts made to connect them with certain stars, but, so far, I am afraid they have resisted all efforts to get a complete story out of them, though certain very important points have been made out. These points I shall consider later."
He continues on page 57, "In Egypt the summer solstice was paramount, for it occurred at the time of the rise of the Nile, the beginning of the Egyptian year.
Did the ancients know anything about these solstices and these equinoxes? Were the almost mythical Hor-shesu or sun-worshippers familiar with the annual course of the sun? That is one of the questions which we have to discuss."
He continues on page 74, "Annu, On, or Heliopolis, which, the tradition runs, was founded by the Shesu-Hor before the time of Menu (5,000-4,000 B.C.)."
He continues on page 77-78, "If Maspero and the great authorities in Egyptology are right -- namely, that Annu temple was founded before 4,000 B.C. -- the above figures drive us to the conclusion that we have in this temple a building which was oriented to the sun, not at a solstice, some 6,000 years ago."
Also see the next site which is the drawing view of the above picture.