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)
This part looks at the Luxor temple of Amenhotep III and Ramses II
Amenhotep III Temple - Luxor (Plan 7)
The calculated main temple axis of Amenhotep III is 33º - 44’; which agrees with the SB findings. The Ramses additions are aligned with an avenue of sphinxes which runs directly through to the Karnak temple, more than 2.8 km away. Effectively this extension skews the axis of the temple by about 11° to a new azimuth of 44º - 36’. The SB study shows this at 42.5º. On these azimuths both the temple and sphinx avenue could only be aligned to the stars.
Unfortunately in the case of Amenhotep’s temple there are no 1st magnitude stars, or principle constellations that fit construction dates, whether looking towards the north or south. De Lubitz suggested that orientation was set on the rising of Vega. For this to have worked the temple construction would need to have been dated back to around 3600 bc, a very improbable date. The best that can be offered, by way of astronomical orientation, is the Southern-Cross that broadly fits the southern azimuth but this would have been too high in the sky to produce an exact alignment. Despite de Lubitz assertions, one is forced to the conclusion that the stars were not a principal factor in the alignment of this temple; rather it was the association to the Nile that established its orientation, for the river is both close and runs parallel to the axis of the temple. Naturally we cannot be certain that this was the case in Amenhotep’s time but it does offer the most plausible explanation.
The change of axis for Ramses II temple is shown together with the link with the Sphinx Avenue. This does align with the star Vega. However it is also aligned to the sanctuary of Amun in the Karnak temple. Without clear textual evidence it is impossible to say what the intentions of the original architect might have been in this alignment.
Ramses II Temple and the Avenue of the Sphinxes (Plan 8)
At first glance the sighting to Vega suggests this had to be a primary element in the alignment of the avenue. However, by hypothetically projecting the avenue a little further, one finds that it is exactly aligned to the main sanctuary of Amun-Ra at the heart of the Karnak complex. Even in Ramses’ time there would be no direct line of the sight, but a mythic bow shot from the sanctuary roof in Karnak, would exactly follow the avenue of sphinxes, through the entrance gateway of Ramses temple to the middle of the its far end. This alignment could easily have been established through simple surveying techniques and may therefore have nothing to do with star alignments.
Here again one faced with another level to the problem in assessing star alignments. What takes precedence? Was the alignment to Vega a fortuitous co-incidence or was it deliberate? These are insuperable questions and may never be satisfactorily answered, even if it is possible to establish the precise date when the avenue that linked the two temples was first laid down.
All material copyright David Furlong 2010