Alignments

The study of the alignments of Egyptian temples began with Lockyer, and some of his conclusions seemed so obviously wrong to the Egyptologists that this was a crucial factor in the dismissal of his work. It seems also to have created a strong bias against alignment studies of any sort on the part of most Egyptologists. However, the inscriptional evidence at Dendera seems a very strong indication that both the Temple of Hathor and the Temple of Isis at that site had stellar alignments. The two temples are at right angles to each other. The two goddesses were equated in Roman times (when the temples were built); both were styled "mothers" of the King, and each was equated, in separate sources, with Sopdet (Sirius).6 At the Temple of Isis, it was written, "She shines into her temple on New Year's Day, and she mingles her light with that of her father Ra on the horizon" (Lockyer 1894/1964, p. 194). This is as clear a statement as one could hope to find that the temple was aligned on the heliacal rising of Sirius at the New Year as Lockyer pointed out. He did not enter into a discussion of what "New Year" meant in this regard. In terms of his measurement, he calculated that the prototype of the Roman temple would have been aligned on the heliacal rise. With respect to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, an inscription said

Looking to the sky at the course of the rising stars [and] recognizing the ak of the Bull's Thigh constellation, I establish the corners of the temple of Her Majesty.

Lockyer was puzzled by the fact that ak, "middle," seems elsewhere to refer to culmination but is here associated with risings and had problems relating the Bull's Thigh (Big Dipper) to the orientation. We shall not attempt to resolve these problems but draw attention to the fact that Hathor/Isis was symbolized as a Hippopotamus (discussion by Lockyer 1894/1964, pp. 216-217). An alternative name for the Bull's Thigh was "The Foreleg of Seth," which is mentioned in a text of the time of Ramses VI quoted by Neugebauer and Parker (1969, III, pp. 190-191), "as to this Foreleg of Seth, it is in the northern sky, tied to two mooring posts of flint by a chain of gold. It is entrusted to Isis as a hippopotamus (rrt) guarding it." A text from Esna (Sais) says that it is Sirius "who tethers the Foreleg (msht) in the northern sky, not letting it go upside down into the Duat." These and other texts cited by Neugebauer and Parker (1969, III, pp. 190-191) show a clear identification of the Hippopotamus goddess attested in the Ramesside "star clocks" with the goddess in the "northern constellations." Clearly, Isis as Hippopotamus and Isis as Sirius are both tied to the Bull's Thigh in some fashion. Neugebauer and Parker (1969, III) argue that the mythology somehow confused the two Mooring Post constellations, and two postulated Hippopotamus constellations, but the involvement of both Sirius and the Bull's Thigh in alignments at Dendera makes that seem less likely. Interestingly, one of the identifications of Hathor is with the goddess Menat (Lockyer 1894/1964, p. 211); menat is also the word for mooring post. That the Sun was supposed to travel in a boat suggests that the two mooring posts may be star markers for the places where the boat stopped, viz., the solstices.

Lockyer also tried to demonstrate that the temple of the Sun god, Amun-Re of Karnak, had various solar alignments

6 Hathor of Dendera is equated in her temple with a substantial number of other goddesses, each of whom is assigned to a particular place. Sopdet is called "of Elephantine," in the far south.

but a calculated date of 3700 b.c., for an alleged summer solstice sunset was completely unacceptable and meant that scholars did not bother to examine his other suggestions. This was partly remedied by Hawkins (1973), whose studies indicated that the solar chamber of Ra-Hor-Akhty, high in the major temple, had a window looking toward the winter solstice sunrise. A smaller temple of Ra-Hor-Akhty to the southeast was also aligned to the winter solstice sunrise (noted by Lockyer and confirmed by Hawkins).

In Plate 1 (see color insert), we look east along the approach to the entrance of the temple of Amun-Re at Meroe far to the south. The picture, taken the day before the winter solstice, clearly shows that Amun-Re's temple there was oriented to the winter solstice sunrise, interesting support for the view that the similar alignments at Karnak were intentional.

The temple complex at Abu Simbel, built by Ramses II, and carved from the solid rock, is substantially north of Meroe but still far south of Karnak. It was built to celebrate the king's Sed festival, in his 34th year. The festival included a ritual race by the king and was supposed to be celebrated only after 30 years of rule. It is disputed whether the Sed festival was normally celebrated on the anniversary of the king's accession or on the first day of the "season" of "Emergence" (1 Tybi), and whether associated dates refer to the celebration of the festival or to the proclamation of the festival. The first of Tybi is mentioned in years 42 and 45 of Rameses II's reign in connection with the 5th and 6th Sed festivals. However, the 10th and 11th Sed festivals in years 57 and 60 seem to refer to 17 Tybi in a comparable context. There is an extended discussion by Parker (1950, pp. 61-62). In any case, it seems clear that 1 Tybi was importantly associated with the Sed festivals of Rameses II. Lockyer (1894/1964, p. 276) refers to Krall's interpretation that 1 Tybi was the mythical date of the coronation of Horus. At Abu Simbel, colossal statues of Rameses II flank the entrance to a sanctuary, 200 feet into the sandstone cliff, containing statues of Ra-Hor-Akhty, Rameses II, Amon, and Ptah. The sanctuary, including three of the statues, is lit by sunlight in February and October (Gregorian calendar), although the statue of Ptah, a lord of the underworld, appropriately remains in darkness. Hawkins (1971) stated that the first of Tybi corresponded to October 18 (Gregorian) about 1260 b.c. The study with the most precise site measurement data is that of Hawkins (1965a). The data consist of the azimuth of sunrise at the notch on the date when it illuminated the temple just prior to its relocation in modern times (100?55), latitude (22?1N), skyline altitude (0?5), and the elevation of the horizon (123m). The Sun shone through a notch approximately 0?3 deep in the cliffs on the east bank of the Nile. It has been proposed that the accession of Ramses II occurred in 1304 b.c. or 1290 b.c. or 1279 b.c. based on a combination of historical data on the lengths of the reigns and of statements about the position of the Moon both within a lunation and the civil calendar. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that the date when the statue was lit by the Sun corresponded with the date of the Sed festival. Because the first of Tybi fell on October 18 for only four years and would not do so again until a cycle of 1508 years had passed, this alignment gives us good evidence to choose between the possibilities, without the problems posed by the Sirius datings. Accepting that the date was the 34th7 year of Ramses's reign, it must be 1271 b.c., 1257 b.c., or 1246 b.c. In 1271 b.c., the first of Tybi fell on Julian Day 1257498 on the 4th of November (Julian) with the Sun at 1 = 212°. In 1257 b.c., the first of Tybi fell on J.D. 1262608 on the 31st of October (Julian) with the sun at 1 = 208°. In 1246 b.c., the first of Tybi fell on J.D. 1266623 on the 29th of October (Julian) with the sun at 1 = 205°. The correction to shift back-calculated Julian dates to backcalculated Gregorian dates at this time was 13 days. Hence, 4 November (Julian) 1271 b.c. was 23 October (Gregorian); 31 October (Julian) in 1257 b.c. was 18 October (Gregorian); 29 October (Julian) in 1246 b.c. was 16 October (Gregorian). We do not know with certainty that the Sed festival was held on the first of Tybi, but the fact that the Sun would have been shining into the sanctuary on that date in 1257 b.c. supports that view and indicates that the accession of Ramses II was probably in 1290 b.c. Hawkins very properly emphasized the play of sunlight as an important factor in the festival "bringing life and rebirth to Ramses and starting a process of deification." That same interplay of light and shadow seems equally crucial in dating his reign. It may be significant that the first day of the year, 1 Thoth, fell the day before the summer solstice in 1257 b.c.

Another smaller temple at Abu Simbel was dedicated to Nefertari, one of Rameses's queens, and to Hathor, the protectress of Rameses. Their temple is aligned on the winter solstice sunrise. This is in agreement with an interpretation of "Mooring Post" as referring to the solstices.

More recent work on alignments is scanty, but R.A. Wells, in 1986, referred to work in progress on using alignments of temple foundations to specifiable stars to determine the temple dates through precession. Christian Leitz (1989) used such techniques, and others, to reject Krauss's work on Sirius dates (Clagett 1995, pp. 141-142, f.n. 49). Leitz's information on the location and alignment of the site was not as precise as Hawkins's and he apparently knew nothing of the notch. Like Hawkins, he makes no allowance for the shift in the inequality of the seasons (see §2.3.1). He apparently did not realize that the winter solstice in the 13th century b.c. was on Dec. 18, not Dec. 22, and that the controlling celestial longitude had since shifted 3-4 days in the Gregorian calendar. These deficiencies invalidate his further arguments and conclusion about the date of the Sed Festival associated with the temple.

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