Oct 15 2015

Article: ‘Decoding the Star Charts of Ancient Egypt’

Nut (top), the Egyptian sky goddess Photograph by Ferit Kuyas; courtesy of the University of Tübingen Museum

Nut (top), the Egyptian sky goddess
Photograph by Ferit Kuyas; courtesy of the University of Tübingen Museum

Courtesy of the Agade listserv, this fascinating article in Scientific American Volume 313, Issue 4, available for purchase here.

Preview:

Decoding the Star Charts of Ancient Egypt
Mysterious tables of astronomical information have been found in 4,000-year-old coffins. What in the world was their purpose?

By Sarah Symons and Elizabeth Tasker

The Egyptian town of Mallawi is not on the main tourist beat, given its location 260 miles and a seven-hour train ride north of the temple complexes at Luxor. But one of us (Symons) traveled there in May 2013 with Robert Cockcroft, a postdoctoral researcher in her laboratory, hoping to see one of the oldest astronomical records in the world. The record, which had been described only vaguely, was indeed there, but to their astonishment, it was not the only one.

“I can see writing!” Cockcroft exclaimed. At that moment, he was crouched beside a display case that enclosed a coffin in the central room of the Mallawi Monuments Museum, craning his neck to peer at the underside of the propped-up wood lid. Symons flicked the beam of her flashlight to illuminate a thin batten-a cross piece-that held the flat panels of wood together. The batten’s surface was painted with graceful hieroglyphics representing star names, and Symons and Cockcroft immediately realized that the cross piece was part of yet another ancient astronomical record. Until that moment, no one had recognized the batten’s significance; it had been attached to this particular coffin by mistake [....]

[Click here for full purchasable full story, with charts].

Leave a Reply