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Unraveling the Secrets of the Dendera Zodiac

CEO Khai Intela
The Dendera zodiac, a mesmerizing Egyptian bas-relief, has long intrigued archaeologists and historians. Unearthed from the Hathor temple in Dendera, this ancient masterpiece adorns the ceiling of a chapel dedicated to the god Osiris. By...

The Dendera zodiac as displayed at the Louvre

The Dendera zodiac, a mesmerizing Egyptian bas-relief, has long intrigued archaeologists and historians. Unearthed from the Hathor temple in Dendera, this ancient masterpiece adorns the ceiling of a chapel dedicated to the god Osiris. By depicting the constellations of Taurus and Libra, it offers valuable insights into the sky as it was perceived during the Greco-Roman era. Join us on a journey as we delve into the mystery of the Dendera zodiac and explore its enduring allure.

Unveiling the Celestial Map

The Dendera zodiac is hailed as "the only complete map that we have of an ancient sky." It showcases a remarkable collection of constellations, including the zodiac signs, presented in both Greco-Roman and Egyptian iconographic forms. Aquarius, for instance, is depicted as the flood god Hapy, holding vases that overflow with water. Jean-François Champollion, the renowned Egyptologist, believed that the Dendera zodiac served as the foundation for subsequent astronomy systems.

Denderah zodiac with original colors (reconstructed)

The ceiling itself is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Four women and four falcon-headed figures, meticulously arranged, bear the weight of the sky disc. The outermost ring of the disc features 36 figures representing the asterisms used to track the Egyptian night. This circular representation of the zodiac is a rarity in ancient Egyptian art, as rectangular zodiacs were more commonly found in similar temples.

A Journey Through Time

Unraveling the history of the Dendera zodiac has been a subject of significant debate. During Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, Vivant Denon documented the circular and rectangular zodiacs in his renowned work, "Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte." The controversy surrounding the age of the zodiac and its purpose sparked lively discussions among scholars. Some estimated its origin to be thousands of years old, while others believed it to be a few hundred years old, questioning whether it was a planisphere or an astrological chart.

Zodiaque de Denderah with the 48 constellations of Claudius Ptolemaus clearly identified among the present 72 constellations on this Zodiac.

The Dendera Affair, as it came to be known, captivated the minds of luminaries like Joseph Fourier and Georges Cuvier. Fourier suggested a date of 2500 BC, while Cuvier placed it between 123 AD and 147 AD. Ultimately, Sylvie Cauville and Éric Aubourg dated the zodiac to 50 BC through a comprehensive examination of its planetary configuration. Incredibly, the zodiac showcases the five planets known to the Egyptians and accurately reflects their positions once every thousand years.

Unveiling Ancient Wonders

The Dendera zodiac continues to amaze visitors at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, where it has been proudly displayed since 1922. However, its journey may not end there. In 2022, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass initiated a petition to return the ancient masterpiece to its homeland, along with other significant artifacts like the Rosetta Stone.

The Dendera zodiac stands as a testament to the profound astronomical knowledge and artistic brilliance of the ancient Egyptians. As we marvel at this extraordinary relic, we can't help but wonder about the countless secrets it continues to hold and the wisdom it has passed down through the ages.

Note: All images courtesy of Saigonintela.vn

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