Egypt: Temple of Dendera - paulsmit
[EGYPT 29579]
'Lions, snakes and a sphinx on astronomical ceiling at Dendera.'

	Snakes and lions in all kind of forms populate 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 upper register of the SECOND STRIP WEST from centre.
The right hand of the picture shows a sphinx reclining on a pedestal and the caption above him tells us that he is the 'ka' (life force) of the sun god Ra.
The rest of the figures in this photo represent decans.
Decans were essentially 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 belonging to the Seti I B decan family. A peculiarity of these decans is that each is associated with a certain mineral, metal or type of wood. It is mentioned in a little caption near the lower part of each figure. Thus the group of snakes represent decan number 3 and is paired off with garnet. The lion-headed seated goddess next to them is decan no. 4 and is associated with glass and gold. And the lion-headed god holding a wadjet eye, no.4a, is coupled with turquoise and gold. 
For other decanal stars in this register see picture 29572 and 29573.
This part of the Dendera Temple was built during the Roman period (first century AD). Photo Paul Smit.