Mid-Winter Solstice Celebration Holiday 2015
A fabulous week holiday in Luxor visiting many ancient sites culminating in celebrating the mid-winter solstice at the magnificent temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
14th - 21st December:
OrientationAstronomical Alignment in the Temples of Egypt
by David Furlong
(This article runs over six pages. To download the whole article in pdf format please click here)
Northern major standstill Moon rise - 58º ±0.3º
Seti 1 Temple - Qurna (Plan 5)
This being the case it would seem logical for Seti to have followed this same mid-winter sunrise azimuth for the orientation of his mortuary temple as did Hatshepsut before him. He chose instead to align his temple on an azimuth of 124º , which happens to be very close to the azimuth of the lunar rise at its most southerly limit. Was this a coincidence or could it have been intentional?
There seems to be no limiting site factors that would affect the orientation of the temple, nor does it appear to be orientated to any significant stellar events. The only significant astronomical orientation is to the Moon and here we hit a problem for, as already stated, there is no textual evidence that the Ancient Egyptians were aware of the ‘Metonic’ cycle (19 years), or indeed that they could predict eclipses , which is another lunar phenomenon.
We will never know what was lost in the great burnings of the Alexandrian library but as I have argued elsewhere in relation to pyramid geometry and the 3:4:5 triangle , the lack of textual evidence does not prove that the Ancient Egyptians were not fully cognisant of such things.
In the cult triad of Karnak (Amun, Mut and Khonsu) the god Khonsu was associated with the Moon, which also set a pattern of time sequences that established the lunar months of the Egyptian calendar. With their clear ability to observe, record and name the major stars and constellations of the night sky, it would be strange if the Egyptian priesthood did not track the rising and setting positions of the Moon.
Did Seti like Hatshepsut before him, perceive himself as the son of the god Amun-Ra and therefore, in his case, identify himself with Khonsu, with its lunar association? In returning Egypt back to the ‘established order’ after the Armana revolution one is forced to the conclusion that there had to be a very good reason why Seti chose a different orientation for his temple from that of Amun’s temple on the opposite side of the Nile. It is also a curious fact that one of the suggested years of the Seti’s accession to the throne, in 1306bc , the Moon just happened to be at its extreme southerly limit . This might suggest that the link to this southern major standstill of the Moon was a lucky coincidence but for another intriguing fact.
The plan shows the alignment from the temple of Karnak just missing the entrance gateway of Seti’s temple.
Ptah Temple - Karnak (Plan 12)
In addition to this the northern perimeter wall of Karnak, which runs alongside of the Ptah temple, follows for a large part the same azimuth. This suggests that the Karnak temple incorporated alignments to both the Sun and the Moon in its orientation and construction, which is logical bearing in mind the association of Amun-Ra to the Sun and Khonsu with the Moon (see Plan 1).
There is not space within the context of this article to explore the relationship between Ptah and the Moon, except to state that there are similarities in the depiction of Ptah and Khonsu. However Khonsu’s own sanctuary at Karnak is not aligned to any lunar event.
Other Lunar Orientated Temples
All material copyright David Furlong 2010