The Egypt Connection





Dendera Temple complex

Coordinates: 26°8′30″N 32°40′13″E / 26.14167°N 32.67028°E / 26.14167; 32.67028

General view of Dendera Temple complex
Temple of Hathor, Dendera

Dendera Temple complex, (Ancient Egyptian: Iunet or Tantere)(19th century English spelling in most sources, including Belzoni was Tentyra). located about 2.5 km south-east of Dendera, Egypt. It is one of the best preserved complexes in Egypt. The area was used as the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt, south of Abydos.


The massive mudbrick compound walls seen from the temple roof.

The whole complex covers some 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a hefty mud brick enclosed wall. Dendera was a site for chapels or shrines from the beginning of history of ancient Egypt. It seems that pharaoh Pepi I (ca. 2250 BC) built on this site and evidence exists of a temple in the eighteenth dynasty (ca 1500 BC). But the earliest extant building in the compound today is the Mammisi raised by Nectanebo II – last of the native pharaohs (360-343 BC). The features in the complex include

  • Hathor temple (the main temple),
  • Temple of the birth of Isis,
  • Sacred Lake,
  • Sanatorium,
  • Mammisi of Nectanebo II,
  • Christian Basilica,
  • Roman Mammisi,
  • a Bark shine,
  • Gateways of Domitian & Trajan and
  • the Roman Kiosk.

 Hathor temple

Entrance to the Dendera Temple Complex
Reliefs of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion at the Dendera Temple

The all overshadowing building in the Complex is the main temple, namely Hathor temple (historically, called the Temple of Tentyra). The temple has been modified on the same site starting as far back as the Middle Kingdom, and continuing right up until the time of the Roman emperor Trajan.[1] The existing structure was built no later than the late Ptolemaic period. The temple, dedicated to Hathor, is one of the best preserved temples in all Egypt. Subsequent additions were added in Roman times.

Layout elements of the Temple
  1. Large Hypostyle Hall
  2. Small Hypostyle Hall
  3. Laboratory
  4. Storage Magazine
  5. Offering Entry
  6. Treasury
  7. Exit to Well
  8. Access to Stairwell
  9. Offering Hall
  10. Hall of the Ennead
  11. Great Seat and Main Sanctuary
  12. Shrine of the Nome of Dendera
  13. Shrine of Isis
  14. Shrine of Sokar
  15. Shrine of Harsomtus
  16. Shrine of Hathor's Sistrum
  17. Shrine of gods of lower Egypt
  18. Shrine of Hathor
  19. Shrine of the Throne of Rê
  20. Shrine of
  21. Shrine of Menat collar
  22. Shrine of Ihy
  23. The Pure Place
  24. Court of the First Feast
  25. Passage
  26. Staircase to Roof

Depictions of Cleopatra VI which appear on temple walls are good examples Ptolemaic Egyptian art.[2] One depicts Cleopatra and her son, Caesarion.[3] On the rear of the temple exterior is a carving of Cleopatra VII Philopator and her son, Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, fathered by Julius Caesar.

 Dendera zodiac

Denderah Zodiac

The sculptured Dendera zodiac (or Denderah zodiac) is a widely known relief found in a late Greco-Roman temple, containing images of Taurus (the bull) and the Libra (the balance). A sketch was made of it during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. and in 1820 it was removed from the ceiling and is now in the Louvre. Champollion's guess that it was Ptolemaic proved correct and Egyptologists now date it to the first century BC.[4]

Necropolis and crypts

The Dendera necropolis is a series of mastaba tombs. The necropolis dates from the Early Dynastic Period of the Old Kingdom to the First Intermediate Period of Egypt.[5] The necropolis runs the eastern edge of the western hill and over the northern plain. The subterranean Hathor temple tombs total 12 chambers. Some reliefs are dated to as late as Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos reign. The crypts reportedly were used for storing vessels and divine iconography. An opening in the "Flame Room" floor leads to a narrow chamber with representations on the walls of the objects which were kept in them. In the second chamber, a relief depicts Phiops of the Sixth Dynasty. He holds a statuette of the Ihi to four images of Hathor. In the crypt, reached from the "Throne room", Ptolemy XII has jewelry and offerings for the gods.

The Dendera light

Dendera light, showing the single representation on the left wall of the right wing in one of the crypts

Hathor Temple has a relief sometimes known as the Dendera light because of a controversial fringe thesis about its nature. The Dendera light images comprise three stone reliefs (one single and a double representation) in the Hathor temple at the Dendera Temple complex located in Egypt. The view of Egyptologists is that the relief is a mythological depiction of a djed pillar and a lotus flower, spawning a snake within, representing aspects of Egyptian mythology.[6][7]

In contrast to this interpretation, there is an fringe science suggestion that departs significantly from the views of Egyptologists arguing that it is actually a representation of an Ancient Egyptian lightbulb.


The Dendera complex has long been one of the most tourist accessible ancient Egyptian places of worship. It used to be possible to visit virtually every part of the complex, from the crypts to the roof. Unfortunately the highest part of the roof of Hathor temple has been closed since 2003. The second stage of the roof was closed in November 2004, after a tourist got too close to the edge and fell to her death on the bedrock below.


 Hathor temple

 Dendera Light

 See also

 External articles and references

 Citations and notes

  1. ^ Barbara Ann Kipfer, "Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology". Page 153
  2. ^ John Pentland Mahaffy, "A History of Egypt Under the Ptolemaic Dynasty". Methuen & Co., 1899. 261 pages. Page 237 and 248.
  3. ^ Mahaffy, Page 251.
  4. ^ http://www.lhl.lib.mo.us/events_exhib/exhibit/exhibits/napoleon/zodiac_dendera.shtml Napoleon and the Scientific Expedition to Egypt
  5. ^ Barbara Ann Kipfer, "Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology".
  6. ^ Wolfgang Waitkus, Die Texte in den unteren Krypten des Hathortempels von Dendera: ihre Aussagen zur Funktion und Bedeutung dieser Räume, Mainz 1997 ISBN 3-8053-2322-0 (tr., The texts in the lower crypts of the Hathor tempels of Dendera: their statements for the function and meaning of these areas)
  7. ^ "Dendera Temple Crypt". iafrica.com.

 General Information

 External links


Dendera and the Temple of Hathor

by Mark Andrews

The facade of the main Hathor Temple at DenderaDotted about the landscape of modern Egypt are many ancient temples from the Mediterranean coast all the way to the southern border with the Sudan, most located in the Nile Valley but scattered elsewhere as well. Some of these temples are famous and stand out from the others, such the Temples of Luxor and Karnak, Philae, Kom Ombo, Esna, Edfu and others. Among these most important temples may also be counted Dendera, which provides examples of a particularly rich variety of later temple features. 

Dendera is located about 60 kilometers north of Luxor on the west bank of the Nile River opposite the provincial modern town of Qena.

Ancient Egyptian Iunet or Tantere, known to the Greeks as Tentyris, was the capital of the 6th nome of Upper Egypt and a town of some importance. Today, we know it as Dendera, A look at the overall Dendera complexthough the population of the town has, since antiquity, moved to Qena across the Nile on the east bank. Now, the ancient temple lies isolated on the desert edge.

Along with the temple itself, there is also a necropolis that includes tombs of the Early Dynastic Period, but the most important phase that has been identified was the end of the Old Kingdom and the 1st Intermediate Period. The provinces were virtually autonomous at that time and, although Dendera was not a leading political force in Upper Egypt, its notables built a number of mastabas of some size, though only one has any decoration apart from stelae and false doors. On the west end of the site are brick-vaulted catacombs of Late Period animal burials, primarily birds and dogs, while cow burials have been found at various points in the necropolis. Of course, this was a significant site for the Hathor cult, whose forms included a cow.

Suggested Layout of the Temple Proper

Suggested Layout of the Temple Proper 1. Large Hypostyle Hall
2. Second, Small Hypostyle Hall
3. Laboratory
4. Storage Magazine
5. Offering Entry
6. Treasury
7. Exit to Well
8. Access to Stairwell
9. Offering Hall
10. Hall of the Ennead
11. Great Seat (central Shrine)/Main Sanctuary
12. Shrine of the Nome of Dendera
13. Shrine of Isis
14. Shrine of Sokar
15. Shrine of Harsomtus
16. Shrine of Hathor's Sistrum
17. Shrine of Gods of Lower Egypt
18. Shrine of Heathor
19. Shrine of the Throne of Re
20: Shrine of Re
21. Shrine of Menat Collar
22. Shrine of Ihy
23. The Pure Place
24. Court of the First Feast
25. Passage
26. Staircase to Roof

The main temple complex is oriented, as usual, toward the Nile, which here flows east-west, so that the temple faces north. However, to the ancient Egyptians, this was symbolically east, since the temple faces the Nile.

The main temple area is fronted by several Roman Period kiosks. After those, the monumental gateway of Domitian and Trajan is set in a massive mud-brick enclosure wall that surrounded the complex, and leads to an open area. Although the site lacks a colonnade and the two pylons which ought to precede the inner temple, an unfinished inner enclosure wall of stone surrounds a courtyard with side entrances which open before the large hypostyle hall added in the 1st century AD by the emperor Tiberius.

A panel from the Roman mammisi, showing a detailed relief of the pharaoh making an offering to HathorHowever, prior to the temple proper is the Roman Period birth house of Dendera on the west, perhaps built by Nero, though more probably by Trajan. Although the dedication inscriptions refer to Trajan, Nero is depicted in the main hypostyle hall of the of the Hathor temple, offering the model of a birth house. This is the latest preserved temple of its type.

The new sanctuary was well designed and followed Ptolemaic models. In order to match the level of the Hathor temple, the new building was erected on a high platform. A temporary access staircase led up at the side of the platform. The roofing slabs were not positioned, as usual, beneath the level of the cavetto molding around the buildings top, but would have probably been hidden by a parapet wall. The core building contains a sequence of three rooms. Two corridors that isolate the large sanctuary are notable. These passages are too narrow to be used and must have been added for symbolic and optical effect. The rear wall of the sanctuary is dominated by an enormous false door that is framed by a double cavetto molding on slender columns and topped by an uraeus frieze. A cult niche high up in the wall corresponds to the location of the statue niche in the sanctuary of the main temple.

Trajan making offerings to Hathor in the Roman birth houseIts scenes depict Trajan, Augustus' later successor, making offerings to Hathor, and are among the finest to be found in Egypt. It was the ritual location where Hathor gave birth to the young Ihy or Harsomtus, two alternative youthful deities who stand for the youthful phase of creator gods in general. There are also, of course, figures of the god Bes, a patron of childbirth, carved on the abaci above the column capitals. The reliefs on the exterior walls are superbly preserved, and portray the divine birth and childhood of the infant Horus, whose rites legitimize the divine descent of the king.

The birth house was surrounded by an ambulatory. The composite capitals of the columns carry high pillars with Bes figures. The frontal ambulatory extended by the addition of three columns into a kind of kiosk, with the front corners formed by L-shaped pillars. The kiosk had a The Roman era Birth House at Denderatimbered roof that somehow must have connected to the stone structure of the birth house. This merging of the ambulatory with a kiosk is a novelty. At older birth houses, a court was attached as a separate structure.

The Roman Birth House (mammisi) was built when the earlier structure, begun by Nectanebo I and decorated in the Ptolemaic Period, was cut through by the foundation of the unfinished first court of the main temple of Hathor. Only a false door at the eastern exterior wall of the main temple of Hathor reminds one of the original sanctuary. Originally, this birth house measured about 17 by 20 meters and consisted of a triple shrine opening to a transverse hall. It was built mainly of brick but received an interior stone casing. Within this older structure, the walls of the wide hall depict the Ptolemaic kings offering to Hathor. A scene on the north wall shows the creator god Khnum fashioning the child, Ihy, with Hekat the goddess of childbirth seen in her image as a frog.

Both birth houses are now accessible. They differ considerably in plan and decoration.

Between the new and old birth houses are the remains of a Christian basilica that can be dated to the 5th century AD. It is an excellent example representative of early Coptic church architecture.

High Relief of Bes in the forecourt of the temple at Dendera
High Relief of Bes in the forecourt of the temple at Dendera

South of the earlier birth house is a mud-brick "sanatorium.. This sanatorium is the only one of its type known in association with an ancient Egyptian temple. Here, visitors could bathe in the sacred waters or spend the night in order to have a healing dream of the goddess. It had benches around its sides where the sick rested while waiting for cures affected by the priests. An inscription on a statue base found in this location The Sanatorium suggests that water was poured over magical texts on the statues, causing it to become holy and to cure all sorts of diseases and illnesses. Basins used to collect the holy water can still be seen at the western end.

To the west of the sanatorium, a small chapel of Nebhepetre' Mentuhotep dating to the 11th Dynasty was recovered from the site and has been re-erected in the Cairo Museum. The building, which has secondary inscriptions of Merneptah, was as much for the cult of the king as for the goddess, and was probably ancillary to the lost main temple of its time.

The main temple at Dendera is the grandest and most elaborately decorated of its period. It is also one of the most important temple sites of Egypt, providing examples of a rich variety of later temple features. It is also one of the best preserved temples of this period, surviving despite the destruction of the temples of Hathor's consort Horus and their child Ihy or Harsomtus which originally stood close by.

The massive foundations probably contain many blocks from the earlier structure it replaced. Early texts refer to a temple at Dendera which was rebuilt during the Old Kingdom, and several New Kingdom monarchs, including Tuthmosis III, Amenhotep III and Ramesses II and III are known to have embellished the structure. However, while fragments of earlier periods have been found on the site, there have been no earlier buildings unearthed. Pepi I and Tuthmosis III in particular were recalled in the new temple's inscriptions.

Cleopatra VII Philopator and Caesarion from the rear of the Temple of Hathor at DenderaThe temple of Hathor was constructed over a period, we believe, of thirty-four years, between 54 and 20 BC. When Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC, the temple was, after four years of building activity, still in its early stages, although it did contain some underground crypts. It seems that the remainder of the temple was build during the twenty-one year reign of his successor, Queen Cleopatra VII. At the time of her death in 30 BC, the decoration work had just begun (on the outer rear wall).

The temple plan is classical Egyptian, completely enclosed by a 35 by 59 meter wall standing 12.5 meters high. However, unlike those of earlier temples, the facade of the hypostyle hall that fronts the main temple is constructed as a low screen with inter-columnar walls exposing the hall's ceiling and the Hathor style sistrum capitals of its 24 columns. According to a dedication inscription on the cornice thickness above the entrance,  this part of the temple was built under Tiberius between 34 and 35 AD. The structure measures 26.03 by 43 meters and is 17.2 meters high. It has an 8 meter long architrave that spans the central intercolumniation. Above, a towering cavetto, built from one course, and the massive volume of the corner tori cast heavy shadows and articulate the edges of the facade.

Hather capitals in the first Hypostyle Hall
Hathor capitals in the first Hypostyle Hall

A sistrum is an ancient Egyptian musical instrument closely associated with Hathor. Each column bears a four-sided capital, which occupies about one third of the column height, carved with the face of the cow-eared goddess, though every one of the faces was vandalized in antiquity (probably during the early Christian Period. The shafts are profusely decorated with scenes, and their straight bases stand on flat plinths. The paint, which was still preserved in the 19th century, was dominated by the blue of Hathor's wig.

Ceiling in the First Hypostyle HallNevertheless, the ceiling of this hall retains much of its original color. It is decorated as a complex and carefully aligned symbolic chart of the heavens, including signs of the zodiac (introduced by the Romans) and images of the sky goddess Nut who swallowed the sun disc each evening in order to give birth to it once again at dawn. The outer hypostyle hall was decorated by emperors ranging from Augustus to Nero. Note that at the center of the south outside wall was a relief of a sistrum that was gilded, both to show its importance and to evoke Hathor, the "gold of the gods".

Since tradition rule that the processional approach should gradually descend from the inside to the outside, the builders had to lower the floor of the central nave of the hypostyle hall to obtain the required progression of floor levels.

A doorway aligned to the central axis of the temple leads from the large hypostyle hall into an inner hall with six Hathor columns that is known as the hall of appearances.  It was here that the statue of the goddess "appeared" from her sanctuary for religious ceremonies and processions. The front wall of this hall was actually the facade of the original temple. Lighting within the hall is provided through small, square apertures. The chamber has columns in two rows of three. They also have Hathor heads. The bases and the lower parts of the drums are made of granite, while the upper parts are of sandstone. Scenes on the walls of this hall depict the king participating in the foundation ceremonies for the construction of the temple, and on either side doors open into three chambers which were used as preparation areas for various aspects of the daily ritual. For example, one room was probably used as a laboratory for preparation of ointments. An opening through the outer eastern wall allowed offering goods to be brought into this area, and a parallel passage from one of the western chambers led to a well.

Uninscribed cartouches in the inner sanctumThe rear part of the temple was built first, probably in the early 1st century BC. The earliest king named is Ptolemy XII Auletes, but mostly the cartouches are blank, probably because of dynastic struggles in the mid 1st century. This inner core included an offering hall, in which sacrifices were dedicated, and a "hall of the ennead" (also known as the "hall of the cycle of the gods), where statues of other deities assembled with Hathor before a procession began.

These are followed by a 5.7 by 11.22 meter barque shrine which once enclosed the four barques of Hathor, Horus of Edfu, Harsomtus and Isis, which apparently were not enclosed by wooden shrines.

Replica of a Barque ShrineAfter this small chamber there is  the sanctuary of the goddess herself. It is embellished by a splendid, temple-like facade topped by a cavetto with an uraeus frieze.   Inside the sanctuary was an expensively decorated wooden naos that held the gilded, two meter high seated cult image of Hathor. The naos stood in a niche of the rear wall, and it is not known how the niche, three meters above the pavement, could be reached. To either side of the this inner sanctuary, the king is depicted offering a copper mirror, one of Hathor's sacred emblems, to the goddess.

About the central sanctuary on its sides and rear are located eleven chapels dedicated to the other deities who were associated with Hathor's chief attributes, the sacred sistrum and the menat necklace.

Within the temple the most distinctive parts are the fourteen crypts, of which eleven were decorated. They far surpass those of other temples. The inclusion of secretly accessed crypts in temples can be traced back to the 18th Dynasty. By the Late Period crypts were included in the architectural design of most temples.

These are suites of rooms on three (and sometimes even four) stories, set in the thickness of the outside wall, and beneath the floors of the chambers in the rear part of the temple. The elongated, narrow chambers and passages are arranged one above the other, with the lowermost laid deep within the temple foundations. Access was gained through trapdoors in the pavement and behind hidden sliding wall blocks. Unlike other crypts, those at Dendera are decorated in relief. The decorations in these chambers conforms to the temple's axis. The most important reliefs, among which sistra are prominent, were on the axis itself. Apparently, these rooms were decorated before the roof blocks were set.

Depiction within the cryptsDepiction within the crypts
Depiction within the crypts

François Daumas described the easternmost of the five crypts along the southern end, telling us that:

"In the last room, one sees, carefully carved on the Southern wall, a falcon with detailed feathers, preceded by a snake emerging from a lotus blossom within a boat. Whereas the whole of the temple is constructed of sandstone, to facilitate a relief of fine quality there was placed in the wall, at the level of the figures, a block of limestone suitable for very detailed work, and of this the artist took full and perfect advantage. These reliefs are cosmological representations. The snake that comes out of the lotus is equated with the shining deity Harsamtawy (Ihy) as he appears for the first time out of the primordial sea. He is again represented near the bottom of the crypt in the form of two snakes also coming forth, but this time wrapped in lotuses like protective envelopes. Sometimes those that were on the Mesktet-barque collaborated with Horus; other times the Mandjet-barque with its crew helped to reveal the god: Djed raises his body, a supreme manner of worship, attendant of the god's prestigious ka. The statuettes appear to have been used for the New Year celebration and the festival of Harsamtawy. It is likely that on these solemn occasions these objects were transported to the vault [i.e. the room above the crypt]."

The large roof of the temple of Hathor at DendaraTheir main use of these crypts was for keeping cult equipment, archives and magical emblems for the temple's protection, though the most important object kept in the crypts was a statue of the ba of Hathor.

Also within the wall thickness are the staircases, which lead up to and return from the roof which, because of the unequal ceiling heights of the rooms below, was built into terraces. The huge roofing slabs must at one time have been covered with thinner paving stones. Their surface was slightly inclined and had channels to guide rainwater from the roof.

Hathor's Kiosk on the roof of her templeOn the roof in the southwest corner is a kiosk, in which the ritual of the goddess's union with the sun disk was performed. It has four Hathor columns on each side. Sockets in its architraves suggest a barrel-shaped timber roof with a double hull and segmented pediment, though for its purpose it must have had roof windows to let in the sun's rays. In the floor of the chapel one may also note the light well for the Horus chapel below, on the main floor.

The ba of Hathor would have been taken from its hiding place to the roof of the temple for the significant New year's festival celebrated where it would have spent the night prior to beholding the rising sun in a symbolic union with the solar disc.

François Daumas tells us that:

"But most prestigious of the statues was that of the ba of Hathor. According to the texts written on the walls, we know that the kiosk consisted of a gold base surmounted by a gold roof supported by four gold posts, covered on all four sides by linen curtains hung from copper rods. Inside was placed the gold statuette representing a bird with a human head capped with a horned disc. This was Hathor, Lady of Dendara, residing in her house... It was certainly this statuette that was carried in the kiosk on the evening of the New Year."

Chapel of the New Year
Chapel of the New Year

The staircase to the west of the offering hall, which was used by the priests to ascend to the roof, has ascending figures of the king and various priests with the shrine of the goddess carved on its right hand wall. These representations depict various aspects of the New Year's festival. The stairway to the east has corresponding scenes of descending figures, and was used for the procession's return. 

There is also a pair of parallel shrines on the roof's eastern and western sides dedicated to Osiris. They are concealed in a kind of mezzanine floor. Both of these sanctuaries have open courts, surrounded by a cavetto. From the rear wall of the court, three doors lead into two succeeding chambers.

In the inner of the two rooms, Isis and Nephthys are shown mourning the death of Osiris, who lies on his funerary bier waiting to be resurrected by magical rituals. Isis is also depicted, magically impregnated with the seed of her son Horus as the myth unfolds. 

The well known zodiacA corresponding suite on the eastern side of the roof depicts the lunar festival of Khoiakh in which an 'Osiris bed' was filled with earth and grain seed as part of an important fertility rite. The walls of the first room show scenes of the burial goods of Osiris, including his canopic jars and on the ceiling Nut is shown with other astronomical figures. On the other half of the ceiling is a plaster copy of the famous 'Dendera Zodiac', representing the cospic aspect of the Osiris mysteries. The original is now in the Louvre in Paris. The inner room depicts scenes from the Osiris myth, similar to that of the western suite as well as reliefs of cosmic importance.

Dendera was considered one of Osiris' many tombs, and the shrines, which have no link with Hathor, were used to celebrate his death and resurrection. His death may have been re-enacted at the sacred lake to the west of the temple.

The roof of the hypostyle hall was reached by another flight of steps with various gods carved along its wall, and this highest area of the temple was used in antiquity by pious pilgrims who awaited signs The back end of the Temple of Hathor at Dendaraand miracles from the goddess. There remain gaming boards carved into the stone blocks that helped these faithful pass the time during their vigils.

On the rear outside wall of the temple directly behind the sanctuary, beneath the two lion-headed waterspouts (there are also three more on each of its side walls) which drained rainwater from the roof are scenes showing the massive figure of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, who became the great queen's co-regent as Ptolemy XV. At the center of the wall is the large False Door with a gigantic emblem of Hathor, diminished over the centuries by pilgrims who scraped at it to obtain a little of the sacred stone at the point where they could come closest to Hathor herself. This is The Isis Birth Housethe location of the "hearing ear" shrine, which allowed the goddess to "hear" the prayers of common folk not otherwise allowed into the main temple.

Immediately south of the Hathor temple is the temple of Isis, known as the Iseum, which used foundation blocks from a destroyed Ptolemaic building and was decorated under Augustus. The east gateway, also Roman in date, leads to this temple, which is almost unique in having a dual orientation with the outer rooms or main part of the structure and hypostyle hall facing east and the inner ones north toward the temple of Hathor. The central high relief in the sanctuary, which showed Isis giving birth, has been mutilated. Within the rear wall of the sanctuary a statue of Osiris (now destroyed) was supported by the arms of Isis and Nephthys.

Plan of the Isis Birth House at Dendera

Further to the south, at the temple's southwest corner, lies the compound's sacred lake which provided water for the priests' ablutions. With flights of stairs descending from each corner, this stone-lined ceremonial basin is the best The sacred lakepreserved of its type in any Egyptian temple. Today, it is empty of water and tall trees grow within its walls. Next to the lake is a  well with rock-cut steps leading down to give access to water for daily use in the temple.

East of the temple was a part of the town, which the temple texts mention as having a temple of Horus of Edfu in its midst. This may be the same as some remains of the Roman Period about 500 meters from the main enclosure. The triads of deities worshiped at Edfu and at Dendera were similar, consisting of Horus, Hathor (or Isis), and Ihy or Harsomtus. Hathor of Dendera and Horus of Edfu met at a sacred "marriage" ceremony, when she made a progress to the south.

Roman Gate East of the Hathor Complex
Roman Gate East of the Hathor Complex


Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
Art of Ancient Egypt, The Robins, Gay 1997 Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-00376-4
Atlas of Ancient Egypt Baines, John; Malek, Jaromir 1980 Les Livres De France None Stated
Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, The Wilkinson, Richard H. 2000 Thames and Hudson, Ltd ISBN 0-500-05100-3
Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian; Nicholson, Paul 1995 Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers ISBN 0-8109-3225-3
Egypt in Late Antiquity Bagnall, Roger S. 1993 Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-1096-x
History of Ancient Egypt, A Grimal, Nicolas 1988 Blackwell None Stated
Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, The Shaw, Ian 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815034-2
Sacred Sites of Ancient Egypt Oakes, Lorna 2001 Lorenz Books ISBN (non stated)

FROM: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/dendera.htm


Dendera zodiac

The Dendera zodiac as displayed at the Louvre

The sculptured Dendera zodiac (or Denderah zodiac) is a widely known Egyptian bas-relief from the ceiling of the pronaos (or portico) of a chapel dedicated to Osiris in the Hathor temple at Dendera, containing images of Taurus (the bull) and the Libra (the scales). This chapel was begun in the late Ptolemaic period; its pronaos was added by the emperor Tiberius. This led Jean-François Champollion to date the relief correctly to the Greco-Roman period, but most of his contemporaries believed it to be of the New Kingdom. The now-accepted date for the relief is 50 BC, since it shows the stars and planets in the positions they would have been seen at that date. The relief has been conjectured to be the basis on which later astronomy systems were based.[1] It is now on display at the Musée du Louvre, Paris.


The zodiac is a planisphere or map of the stars on a plane projection, showing the 12 constellations of the zodiacal band forming 36 decans of ten days each, and the planets. These decans are groups of first-magnitude stars. These were used in the ancient Egyptian calendar, which was based on lunar cycles of around 30 days and on the heliacal rising of the star Sothis (Sirius).

Its representation of the zodiac in circular form is unique in ancient Egyptian art.[citation needed] More typical are the rectangular zodiacs which decorate the same temple's pronaos.

The celestial arch is represented by a disc held up by four pillars of the sky in the form of women, between which are inserted falcon-headed spirits. On the first ring, 36 spirits symbolize the 360 days of the Egyptian year.

On an inner circle, one finds constellations, showing the signs of the zodiac. Some of these are represented in the same forms as their familiar names (e.g. the Ram, Taurus, Scorpio, and Capricorn, albeit most in odd orientations in comparison to the conventions of ancient Greece and later Arabic-Western developments), whilst others are shown in a more Egyptian form: Aquarius is represented as the flood god Hapy, holding two vases which gush water[citation needed].


Denderah Zodiac (19th-century engraving)

During the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt, Vivant Denon drew the circular zodiac, the more widely known one, and the rectangular zodiacs. In 1802, after the Napoleonic expedition, Denon published engravings of the temple ceiling in his Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte.[2] These elicited a controversy as to the age of the zodiac representation, ranging from tens of thousands to a thousand years to a few hundred, and whether the zodiac was a planisphere or an astrological chart.[3] Louis Charles Antoine Desaix, a member of the expedition, decided to remove the relief to France and so, in 1820, the antiquities dealer Sébastien-Louis Saulnier commissioned Jean Baptiste Leloraine, a master mason, to remove the circular zodiac with saws, jacks, and scissors constructed for the job. The zodiac ceiling was moved in 1821 to Restoration Paris and, by 1822, was installed by Louis XVIII in the Royal Library. In 1964, the zodiac moved from the Bibliothèque Nationale to the Louvre.

The controversy around the zodiac, called the "Dendera Affair", involved people of the likes of Joseph Fourier (who estimated that the age was 2500 BC[4]), Thomas Young, Jean-François Champollion, and Jean-Baptiste Biot.[5] Johann Karl Burckhardt and Jean-Baptiste Coraboeuf held, after analysis of the zodiac, that the ancient Egyptians understood the precession of the equinoxes. Champollion, among others, believed that it was a religious zodiac. Champollion deciphered the names of Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and Domitian on the ceiling of Dendera's temple, and placed the zodiac in the era of Roman rule over Egypt.[6]


  1. ^ Zodiac of Dendera, epitome. (Exhib., Leic. square). J. Haddon, 1825.
  2. ^ Abigail Harrison Moore, "Voyage: Dominique-Vivant Denon and the Transference of Images of Egypt", Art History 25.4 (2002:531–549).
  3. ^ Zodiac of Dendera, epitome. (Exhib., Leicester Square). J. Haddon, 1825.
  4. ^ Francis Lister Hawks, The Monuments of Egypt: Or, Egypt a Witness for the Bible. John Murray, 1850. 256 pages. Page 158.
  5. ^ Biot, Récherches sur plusieurs points de 1'Astronomie Egyptienne, appliquées aux monumens astronomiques trouvés en Egypte. Paris, 1823. 8 Volumes.
  6. ^ J. G. Honoré Greppo, Essay on the Hieroglyphic System of M. Champollion, Jun., and on the Advantages which it Offers To Sacred Criticism. Saxton & Miles, 1842. 276 pages.


  • (French) Éric Aubourg, La date de conception du temple d'Hathor à Dendérah, BIFAO, 1995 ;
  • Sylvie Cauville :
    • (French) Le temple de Dendérah, IFAO, 1995,
    • (French) Le temple d'Isis à Dendéra, BIFAO, 1995,
    • (French) Le zodiaque d'Osiris, Peeters, 1997.

External links


In Global Sacred Alignments, Terry Walsh diagrams several alignments of ancient sites on straight lines around the center of the earth, and mentions several others. He addresses the alignment of the Great Pyramid with Easter Island, Machupicchu and Persepolis, and he diagrams an alignment of Easter Island with Tiahuanaco, Luxor, Mohenjo Daro, Varanasi and Bandiagara, the ancient land of the Dogons. This second alignment also crosses over Dendera, Bodh Gaya and Mandalay.

Image © Cosmi 3-D World Atlas

The total circumference of this second alignment is 24,892 miles. The great circle distance from Easter Island to Tiahuanaco is 2,703 miles, 10.8% of the total circumference. The distance from Tiahuanaco to Bandiagara is 4,930 miles, 19.8%. The distance from Bandiagara to Luxor is 2,473 miles, 9.9%. The distance from Luxor to Easter Island’s antipodal point in the Indus Valley near Ganweriwali is 2,363 miles, 9.5%.

Because Easter Island, Machupicchu, the Great Pyramid, the Indus Valley and Angkor are also aligned at 10% intervals around the earth, there is a high coincidence of paired sites along these two alignments. In addition to the convergence of the two alignments at Easter Island and Mohenjo-Daro, Machupicchu is paired with Tiahuanaco and the Great Pyramid is paired with Luxor. If the pairing of these sites along these two alignments is not a coincidence, two good places to look for other ancient sites would be in the Sahara Desert, near the border between Mali and Mauritania, at 21° N, 7° 40' W, 2,488 miles southwest of the Great Pyramid, and in the shallow water of the South China Sea, just off the coast of Vietnam, at 18° 43' N, 106° 27' E, 2,488 miles southeast of Mohenjo-Daro.

The axis points of this great circle are 62° 03' N, 124° 40' W and 62° 03' S, 55° 20' E. The great circle crosses the equator at 34° 40' W and 145° 20' E. The upper latitudes are 27° 57' N at 55° 20' E and 27° 57' S at 124° 40' W.

Links: Latitude Longitude To Great Circle
Easter Island 27° 06' S 109° 20' W 0 miles
Tiahuanaco 16° 32' S 68° 42' W 0 miles
Dendera 26° 10' N 32° 39' E 5 miles
Mohenjo-Daro 27° 15' N 68° 17' E 5 miles
Varanasi 25° 17' N 82° 56' E 10 miles
Bodh Gaya 24° 42' N 84° 58' E 1 mile
Mandalay 22° 03' N 96° 08' E 10 miles

Above: The zodiac that was carved on the ceiling of the temple at Dendera.

Below: Northern constellations and center of Dendera zodiac.

Although the original temple at Dendera was built at the beginning of dynastic Egypt, it is believed that the temple was restored and the zodiac was carved almost 3,000 years later. In ancient Egypt, the hippopotamus represented the body of the constellation now known as Draco, and the bull's thigh represented the Big Dipper (Ursa Major). When the Dendera Zodiac is believed to have been carved (around 150 B.C.), the celestial north pole was above the Big Dipper, closer to Polaris than Thuban. The location of the center of the Dendera Zodiac suggests that it was carved much earlier or carved to represent a much earlier time, when the celestial north pole was close to Thuban, around the beginning of dynastic Egypt. It is also believed that the temple at Dendera was originally dedicated to the star god Sirius-Isis. Sirius is also central to the religious beliefs of the ancient Dogon tribe that still inhabits the Bandiagara escarpment in Mali. In 1862 it was discovered by modern science that Sirius is orbited by a white-dwarf companion star, invisible to the naked eye. The ancient religious beliefs of the Dogons, handed down to the present day, as well as ancient Egyptian writings, both suggest a much earlier awareness of this dual nature of the Sirius star system.

FROM: http://home.hiwaay.net/~jalison/second.html


The Dendera Zodiac. Astrologer John Lash gave a lecture at the Alternative Egypt Questing Conference in October 99, in which he claimed that there were originally 13 signs in the zodiac, the 13th being "The Snake Handler". Instead of splitting the ecliptic into 12 equally sized sections, there were 13 sections of different sizes, depending on the sizes of the constellations. Once this is taken into account, we see that the Sun's vernal equinox will not transit from Pisces to Aquarius, for another 700 to 800 years.

      The Circular Zodiac of Dendera. Sacred Science by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz. C. 1961. Lucie Lamy.                            The zodiac is "disposed about an eccentric circle with one center at the pole of the ecliptic (nipple of the female hippopotamus) and the other at the pole star (jackal or dog)". John Anthony West is not entirely convinced by Schwaller's theory, but does have an explanation  for Cancer being the odd sign out. When the temple was built, the Egyptian New Year began at the heliacal rising of Sirius, within the sign of Cancer. The New Year was celebrated at Dendera, and the temple was aligned tp the heliacal rising of Sirius (represented twice - between the horns of Hathor, on a line touching Cancer, and also as a falcon on the axis of the temple. Serpent in the Sky. C. 1993. John Anthony West

   The circular zodiac on the ceiling of the Temple at Denderah, Egypt                Some of the zodiac signs are displaced from their usual ............................................................................................................................................ positions along the eccentric circle of the ecliptic, and                                                                                                                                              seem to be arranged on a circle round the pole star .

.......................................................................................................................................................................John Anthony West

 The circular zodiac on the ceiling of the Temple at Denderah, in Egypt shows the 12 signs, the Snake Handler without the snake, several other constellations, the five visible planets, and the 36 decans.  The Egyptologist R.A. Schwaller De Lubicz (in Sacred Science), has shown that the Denderah Zodiac demonstrates that the Egyptians knew about the precession of the equinoxes. The axes marked on the zodiac show the movement of solstices and equinoxes through the constellations between the foundation of Egypt and the time of the building of the Denderah Temple. Sirius appears twice - once on the true North-South axis, above the horns of the "cow of Isis", and also on the axis of the temple, as Horus on a papyrus stem. The light of the star would illumine the inner temple on New Year's Day, at the heliacal rising, when the temple was built. At that era, this would have coincided with the summer solstice in Cancer, which is why Sirius also appears aligned to Cancer on the North-South axis.

         Zodiac highlighted, with the extra axes, bringing attention to the coming Galactic Solstice. C. 1961. Lucie Lamy         Double rams heads show position of today's equinox axis. C. 1961. Lucie Lamy

  Detail showing the axes, and the 90 degree line through Galactic Centre, between Scorpio & Sagitarius        &       Double rams' heads

John Lash points out another axis on the Dendera Zodiac, which goes from the four rams' heads, through Pisces, across the pole to the star Spica, being held by Virgo. This, he says, is pointing out the position of the vernal equinox today. The line goes through the Square of Pegasus, which has writing on it - "the Programmes of Destiny" (I had previously associated this square with the "Wormhole of Daath").  At exactly 90 degrees to this axis, another line can be drawn through the tip of the arrow of Sagittarius, which points to Galactic Centre, where the solstice alignment will occur in 2012. John Lash's Dendera theory is summed up in his own words in Colin Wilson's book, Atlantis Blueprint.

[Editor's Note:  Nostradamus used a 13 constellation astrology chart, as does Dr. Louis Turi currently.]

13 Sign Constellation astrology;   The 13th missing sign is OPHIUCHUS.
This form of astrology was practiced by Nostradamus



List of stars in Ophiuchus
Abbreviation Oph
Genitive Ophiuchi
Pronunciation /ˌɒfiːˈjuːkəs/ Óphiúchus, genitive /ˌɒfiːˈjuːkaɪ/
Symbolism the snake-holder / the healer
Right ascension 17
Declination 0
Area 948 sq. deg. (11th)
Main stars 10
Stars with
known planets
Bright stars 5
Nearby stars 8
Brightest star α Oph (Ras Alhague) (2.1m)
Nearest star Barnard's Star (5.96 ly)
Messier objects 7
Meteor showers Ophiuchids
Northern May Ophiuchids
Southern May Ophiuchids
Theta Ophiuchids
Serpens Caput
Serpens Cauda
Visible at latitudes between +80° and −80°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July.

Ophiuchus is a large constellation located around the celestial equator. Its name is Greek (Ὀφιοῦχος) for 'snake-holder', and it is commonly represented as a man grasping the snake that is represented by the constellation Serpens. Ophiuchus was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. It was formerly referred to as Serpentarius (/ˌsɜrpənˈtɛəriəs/), a Latin word meaning the same as its current name.


It is located between Aquila, Serpens and Hercules, northwest of the center of the Milky Way. The southern part lies between Scorpius to the west and Sagittarius to the east. It is best visible in the northern summer and located opposite Orion in the sky. Ophiuchus is depicted as a man grasping a serpent; the interposition of his body divides the snake constellation Serpens into two parts, Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda, which are nonetheless counted as one constellation.

 Notable features


Johannes Kepler's drawing depicting the location of the stella nova in the foot of Ophiuchus.

The brightest stars in Ophiuchus include α Ophiuchi, called Rasalhague (at the figure's head), and η Ophiuchi.

RS Ophiuchi is part of a class called recurrent novae, whose brightness increase at irregular intervals by hundreds of times in a period of just a few days. It is thought to be at the brink of becoming a type-1a supernova.[1]

Barnard's Star, one of the nearest stars to the Solar System (the only stars closer are the Alpha Centauri binary star system and Proxima Centauri), lies in Ophiuchus. (It is located to the left of β and just north of the V-shaped group of stars in an area that was once occupied by the now-obsolete constellation of Taurus Poniatovii, Poniatowski's Bull.)

In 2005, astronomers using data from the Green Bank Telescope discovered a superbubble so large that it extends beyond the plane of the galaxy.[2] It is called the Ophiuchus Superbubble.

In April 2007, astronomers announced that the Swedish-built Odin satellite had made the first detection of clouds of molecular oxygen in space, following observations in the constellation Ophiuchus.[3]

The supernova of 1604 was first observed on October 9, 1604, near θ Ophiuchi. Johannes Kepler saw it first on October 16 and studied it so extensively that the supernova was subsequently called Kepler's Supernova. He published his findings in a book titled De stella nova in pede Serpentarii (On the New Star in Ophiuchus' Foot). Galileo used its brief appearance to counter the Aristotelian dogma that the heavens are changeless.

In approximately 40,000 years Voyager 1 probe will pass within 1.6 light years of the star AC+79 3888, which is located in Ophiuchus.[4]

 Deep-sky objects

Ophiuchus contains several star clusters, such as IC 4665, NGC 6633, M9, M10, M12, M14, M19, M62, and M107, as well as the nebula IC 4603-4604. The unusual galaxy merger remnant NGC 6240 is also in Ophiuchus.

In 2006, a new nearby star cluster was discovered associated with the 4th magnitude star Mu Ophiuchi.[5] The Mamajek 2 cluster appears to be a poor cluster remnant analogous to the Ursa Major Moving Group, but 7 times more distant (approximately 170 parsecs away). Mamajek 2 appears to have formed in the same star-forming complex as the NGC 2516 cluster roughly 135 million years ago.[6


Ophiuchus holding the serpent, Serpens, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825. Above the tail of the serpent is the now-obsolete constellation Taurus Poniatovii while below it is Scutum.

There exist a number of theories as to whom the figure represents.

The most recent interpretation is that the figure represents the healer Asclepius, who learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. To prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius' care, Zeus killed him with a bolt of lightning, but later placed his image in the heavens to honor his good works. It has also been noted that the constellation Ophiuchus is in close proximity in the sky to that of Sagittarius, which has at times been believed to represent Chiron (the mentor of Asclepius and many other Greek demigods), though Chiron was originally associated with the constellation Centaurus.

Another possibility is that the figure represents the Trojan priest Laocoön, who was killed by a pair of sea serpents sent by the gods after he warned the Trojans not to accept the Trojan Horse. This event was also memorialized by the sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus in the famous marble sculpture Laocoön and his Sons, which stands in the Vatican Museums.

A third possibility is Apollo wrestling with the Python to take control of the oracle at Delphi.

A fourth is the story of Phorbas, a Thessalonian who rescued the people of the island of Rhodes from a plague of serpents and was granted a place in the sky in honor of this deed.


Staff of Aesculapius representing Ophiuchus

Ophiuchus is part of the astronomical zodiac, but originates from the Greeks, not the Babylonian cultural sphere from where the astrological signs originated. Nevertheless a few astrologers using a sidereal zodiac recognize it as a zodiacal sign.



 External links

Coordinates: Sky map 17h 00m 00s, +00° 00′ 00″







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