Complete zodiac symbols discovered in ancient Egyptian temple

"Representations of the zodiac are very rare in Egyptian temples."
Nergis Firtina
Representation of the zodiac sign Sagittarius.
Representation of the zodiac sign Sagittarius.

University of Tübingen  

Located in Upper Egypt, the Temple of Esnat is home to yet another collection of vibrant ceiling murals found by an Egyptian-German study team. The Egyptian restoration team, led by researcher Ahmed Emam, successfully restored and recolored a depiction of the sky. The relief-created graphics feature an accurate representation of each zodiac sign.

According to the release, other reliefs depict the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars and numerous stars and constellations that were once used as timekeepers. Hisham El-Leithy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Professor Christian Leitz of the University of Tübingen is in charge of the overall project.

"Representations of the zodiac are rare in Egyptian temples," Christian Leitz says. "The zodiac itself is part of Babylonian astronomy and did not appear in Egypt until Ptolemaic times," he added.

Complete zodiac symbols discovered in ancient Egyptian temple
Representation of decans, zodiac signs used to measure the twelve hours of the night.

"The zodiac was used to decorate private tombs and sarcophagi and was of great importance in astrological texts, such as horoscopes found inscribed on pottery sherds," says Dr. Daniel von Recklinghausen, a Tübingen researcher. "However, it is rare in temple decoration: Apart from Esna, there are only two completely preserved versions left, both from Dendera,” he explains.

Other animals have also been discovered

The restoration also uncovered colorful depictions of snakes, crocodiles, and other fantastical animals, including a bird with a crocodile's head, a snake's tail, and four wings, in addition to the zodiac and star constellations.

The scholars also found previously unidentified inscriptions during the restoration. The colors in the Esna temple had been protected for close to 2,000 years by a covering of grime and soot. However, the ceiling murals and inscriptions were so filthy that they were scarcely legible for generations.

Under the rule of the Roman Emperor Claudius (r. 41–54 AD), a sandstone edifice measuring 37 meters long, 20 meters wide, and 15 meters high was erected in front of the genuine temple building, likely eclipsing it. The vestibule was probably spared because of its central placement in the city, as opposed to other ancient structures utilized as quarries for building materials during Egypt's industrialization.

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