'Decanal stars on boats in Hathor Temple at Dendera.'
Starry creatures are sailing in boats across the firmament on the astronomical ceiling in the outer hypostyle hall of the Hathor Temple at Dendera. The ceiling consists of seven separate strips but here we are looking at a detail of the lower register of the WESTERNMOST STRIP.
The squatting baboon, the figure group and the standing god are the decanal stars no. 12, 11 and 10. The boat of no. 11 is transporting the three hieroglyphic signs which make up the name of this heavenly body: a head, an arm and a stand for three water jugs.
In fact, the lower register of the westernmost strip is entirely filled with figures who are standing or sitting in boats. These are the decans, 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 till 17 and 36 of the Tanis decan family. Stars 18 till 35 can be found on the easternmost ceiling strip (see picture 29526).
This part of the Dendera Temple was built during the Roman period (first century AD). Photo Mick Palarczyk.