'Birth of the sun in Hathor Temple at Dendera.'
The rising sun is born from the lap of sky goddess Nut 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 EASTERNMOST STRIP. The entire strip is enveloped by the outstretched body of the sky goddess Nut and her feet are visible in the left upper corner of this picture. The wave pattern on Nut's dress symbolizes the cosmic river on which the sun traveled during the night.
The rays of the rising sun touch the head of the goddess Hathor which is located on top of a simplified image of a temple (seen upside down here). The scene portrays the first day of the Egyptian New Year on which a statue of Hathor, brought from a crypt in the temple and placed on its roof, was rejuvenated by the first rays of the New Year sun. To the left of the sun rays we see Cancer, one of the six zodiac signs that are represented in this ceiling strip. These signs are of Babylonic-Greek origin and are not found in Egypt before it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC
On the right we see the end of the two registers which make up the rest of this strip. The upper register starts with a boat carrying the standing goddesses Anukis and Satis, who represent a constellation south of the Ecliptic (the astronomical location is known from the famous round zodiac of Dendera in the Louvre). Anukis, as personification of the Nile, is pouring water from two vessels. Satis, another water goddess, is wearing the crown of upper Egypt. This watery constellation is closely associated with the next heavenly body: Sothis (the star Sirius) depicted as a cow on a boat.
The rise of Sirius on the eastern horizon, after a few weeks of invisibility, signaled the beginning of the summer Nile flood for the Egyptians and the beginning of the New Year.
Next comes a constellation or star which is called 'Horus-who-is-on-his-pillar' and which is south of the Ecliptic (the astronomical location is known from the famous round zodiac of Dendera in the Louvre.)
The lower register starts with a small boat carrying a lotus flower from which emerges a snake. The snake is a symbol for the rising sun on the first day of the New Year, the lotus flower being the first object that appeared on the primordial sea on the first day of the world creation. It is similar to the famous image of the sun-snake in a cosmos-bulb which is found in the southern crypt of the temple (see pictures 29604-607).
Next follows a boat with a seated Isis and Hathor and a standing Harsomptus, the three most important deities of the temple. The falcon-headed god on a boat to the right of that is a decanal star (nr. 35 in the Tanis decan family of Neugebauer and Parker).
For an overview of this ceiling strip see picture 29526.
This part of the Dendera Temple was built during the Roman period (first century AD). Photo Mick Palarczyk.