Astronomy in Egypt

  • Gregg De Young
Reference work entry

We have few written records dealing with the heavens, and those that we possess are derived from the Greek astronomical tradition and therefore are very late in Egyptian history. Thus, in order to assess the astronomical knowledge of ancient Egypt, we rely on such limited pieces of evidence as “diagonal calendars” that decorate some Middle Kingdom (ca. 2150–1780 BCE) coffins, orientation of tombs and pyramids relative to the cardinal compass points, and astronomical ceilings used in temple or tomb decorations.

Recent evidence from the area of Napta Playa indicates that observations of the heavens were already well developed during the predynastic period (prior to 3100 BCE) of Egyptian history. Here, an ordered array of stones grouped in a rough circle around a central stone are reminiscent of the artificial arrangement of megaliths at Stonehenge, although the Egyptian arrangement is much older.

One of the primary incentives for study of the heavens in ancient Egypt seems to have been...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Gregg De Young

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