Wednesday July 24th, 2024
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Complete Egyptian Zodiac Uncovered in Luxor's Temple of Esna

After five years of restorations throughout the temple, the ceiling had been cleared of thick layers of dirt and soot.

Hesham Badr

Complete Egyptian Zodiac Uncovered in Luxor's Temple of Esna

An astronomical mural depicting ancient Egypt’s night sky - including all 12 Zodiac signs as the ancient Egyptians knew them - has been uncovered by an Egyptian-German archaeological mission in the Temple of Esna in Luxor. Talk about a major Virgo moment!

After five years of restorations throughout the temple, the ceiling had been cleared of thick layers of dirt and soot, revealing colourful reliefs of outer planets such as Jupiter and Saturn, seven arrows and constellations used to measure time, and a variety of animals, deities and composite beings (such as a crocodile-headed bird, or a ram-headed snake).

The Temple of Esna is the second Egyptian temple to feature a complete zodiac, with the other having been found in Hathor Temple in Dendera, and has since been relocated to the Louvre in Paris. Known as the Dendera Zodiac, the bas-relief was either created during the New Kingdom or the Greco-Roman period, and depicts many of the Zodiac in their familiar Greco-Roman forms (the Ram, Taurus the Bull, Scorpio the Scorpion, etc), while others had a more Egyptian form, such as Aquarius being represented by the flood god Hapy.

The Zodiac was popular in ancient Egypt and was used to decorate private tombs, sarcophagi, and astrological texts. Would we have been able to form life-long friendships based on our mutual bonding over being Capricorns? We would have liked to imagine yes.

The restoration of the Temple of Esna is funded by the American Research Centre in Cairo and began in 2018. The temple is dedicated to the ram-headed god Khnum and was constructed during the Roman period.

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