Astronomy astrology ancient egypt

Both Demotic horoscopes and Greek horoscopes have been found in Egypt, and in the American historian of astronomy Alexander Jones proved that some Egyptian astrologers writing in Greek were using Babylonian methods.

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But until now little has been known about the computational methods of the native Egyptian astrologers writing in Demotic. The two newly identified Demotic texts with computational instructions shed new light on the mathematical skills of the native Egyptian astrologers. Both ostraca contain instructions regarding three distinct Babylonian algorithms. Each of them is concerned with a particular phenomenon of Mercury: its first appearance as an evening star, its first appearance as a morning star, or its last appearance as a morning star.

The inscriptions offer the first unequivocal proof that native Egyptian astrologers, like their colleagues writing in Greek, were capable of computing positions of Mercury, a planet with a comparably complicated motion, using Babylonian methods. An analysis of the instructions suggests that the native Egyptian scholars adapted these methods before their colleagues writing in Greek, as well as independently of those colleagues.

First, the ostraca predate all known Greek tables for Mercury that were computed with these methods, and are in fact the only instructional texts with Babylonian astronomy that have been found in Egypt thus far. Second, they use a Babylonian loanword for 'degree', while the astrologers writing in Greek used a Greek word for this. A surprising aspect of the instructions is that they employ a mathematical formulation that is unknown from Babylonia.

The distance travelled by Mercury was then obtained by counting off a fixed number of these steps, with identical results to those obtained by their Babylonian counterparts. By watching sunrise from the same location such as a temple throughout the years, it would not have taken long for them to notice that the point of sunrise changes on the eastern horizon so that it reaches a maximal northerly point in mid-summer the summer solstice, June and a maximal southerly point in midwinter the winter solstice, December , and that it crossed the mid-point at in spring vernal equinox, March and in autumn autumnal equinox, September.

The duration of the true solar year, called the tropical year, is measured from one spring equinox to the next, and is exactly The yearly cycle of a star, which is measured from one meridian passage to the next on the same date, is called the sidereal year, and is This difference is due to the phenomenon called precession of the equinoxes, a very slow gyrating motion of the Earth which has a cycle of about 26, years. A star, therefore, will rise about 4 minutes earlier each night. It follows that there is a time during the year when the star will rise after sunrise and set before sunset, and thus will not be visible.

It will begins at sunset when Sirius is last seen in the west, and its ends 70 days later when it rises for the first time in the east at dawn. This first rising is known as the heliacal rising. The unseen starry underworld where the magical rituals took place was called Duat. It is the taking place of its duration in the Duat… every one of the stars, that is to say 70 days… this is what is done by dying.


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This perfectly concords with the triad of divinities found in the Pyramid Texts, namely the god Sah Orion , his wife the goddess Spdt Canis Major and their son Spd Sirius. Their mythological earthly counterparts were Osiris and his wife Isis, and their son Horus. S Edwards duly noted that the time between the two dates is days 9 months which clearly allude to the human gestation period. The five days that were added are known as the epagomenals, and were dedicated to the deities Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis and Nephtys.


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Now in ancient times the period of gestation was often said to be 10 months i. Sauneron concluded that the dates given in the inscriptions at Edfu defined the gestation period of the god Horus in the womb the goddess Hathor, the latter an alter ego of Isis the mythological mother of Horus.

Hathor had her main temple at Dendera some km south of Edfu. Hathor, like Isis, was identified to the star Sirius and more especially to its heliacal rising at dawn. Every year in the month of Epiphi a statue of the goddess Hathor was taken from the temple of Dendera, and transported on the Nile upstream to the temple of Edfu. The voyage was deliberately planned to reach Edfu on the day of the new moon.

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Then the statue of Hathor was returned to Dendera. Upper and Lower Egypt. At Dedera this event would take place on the 16th July Julian. This meant that the heliacal rising of Sirius moved one day ahead every four years.

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According to the calculations made by Eric Aubourg, he found out that when the temple of Dendera was founded, the heliacal rising of Sirius fell on the 14th Epiphi of the Egyptian calendar, as given in the inscriptions at Dendera. Since the heliacal rising of Sirius remains on the same date in the Egyptian calendar for 4 years, then a window from to BC must be considered. Because both the temple of Dendera and the temple of Edfu are from the Ptolemaic Period, it would be logical to look for a king associated to the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

Now the month of Lous was the first month of the ancient Attic calendar which began on the new moon after the summer's solstice. This date immediately draws attention to the heliacal rising of Sirius as witnessed from the city of Alexandria in Ptolemaic times. The temple of Horus at Edfu , on the other hand, is oriented almost due south. But who first looked up at the sky to make sense of what was happening down on the ground and why their fellow humans were behaving in certain ways? Exactly who came up with this way of thinking and when is unclear, but historians and astronomers do know a bit about how it got so popular today.

Early Egyptian Astronomy

The stars are just one of the many things in the natural world that human beings have turned to for answers over the years. That was taken over by the idea of divination, where you can actually look at things in nature and study them carefully, such as tea-leaf reading. Odenwald points out that in societies where people in the lower classes had less control over their lives, divination could seem pointless.

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The Sumarians and Babylonians, by around the middle of the second millennium BC, appeared to have had many divination practices — they looked at spots on the liver and the entrails of animals, for example — and their idea that watching planets and stars was a way to keep track of where gods were in the sky can be traced to The Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa.

Imagine a straight line drawn from Earth through the Sun and out into space way beyond our solar system where the stars are. Then, picture Earth following its orbit around the Sun. This imaginary line would rotate, pointing to different stars throughout one complete trip around the Sun — or, one year. All the stars that lie close to the imaginary flat disk swept out by this imaginary line are said to be in the zodiac.

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