'Recently restored Astronomical Ceiling in Hathor Temple at Dendera.'
Looking up in the outer hypostyle hall of the Hathor Temple at Dendera gives you a dazzling view of the astronomical ceiling, that was restored between 2006 and 2011. It is a mysterious world inhabited by star gods and zodiac signs but also by weirder creatures such as snakes on tall legs and birds with human heads.
The astronomical ceiling consists in total of seven separate strips, which are conspicuous by their bright blue colour, that was invisible under a layer of soot before the restoration. Here we see the three strips east from centre.
The Second Strip East from centre we see in its entirety in this picture. It consists of a lower and upper register. The lower register is in its right-hand part inhabited by the goddesses of the twelve hours of the day and their associated deities. In the middle and left-hand part of the register the sun, moon, Sirius, Orion and Venus are sailing across the sky in their boats.
The upper register begins and ends with a representation of one of the four winds. On the left are two boats carrying Isis, Osiris, Ra and Harsomptus. The rest is filled with personifications of decanal stars. The decans of Egyptian astronomy were 36 stars or star groups near the ecliptic whose rise or transit could be used to tell the time during the night. Eventually they were also used by astronomers as place-markers in the sky to divide up the Ecliptic in equal portions. Decans first appear during the Middle Kingdom on the inside of coffin lids, providing the deceased with his own private start clock. Unfortunately, during the subsequent centuries many different lists of decanal stars were developed and very few of these stars can be identified on a modern star map. The decans in this register were listed by Neugebauer and Parker as stars 1, 2 and 21 till 36 of the Seti I B decan family. Stars 3 till 20 can be found on the second strip west from centre (see pictures 29572 and 29573.)
For an overview of the entire astronomical ceiling see picture 29525.
This part of the Dendera Temple was built during the Roman period (first century AD). Photo Mick Palarczyk.