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Ancient Egyptian astronomy

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Thomas M.
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  1. Introduction
  2. The birth of Re
  3. Re's creation
  4. The birth of the other gods
  5. Orion and Osiris
  6. Studying the night sky through monumental architecture
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography

Ancient Egypt is a very interesting culture. Like most ancient cultures, ancient Egypt placed lots of importance on the sky and the heavenly bodies. Unlike anything on Earth, the heavens seemed to be unchanging and all-powerful. The idea that the heavens were all-powerful was reinforced by the fact that the sky was untouchable and impossible for humans to manipulate or even look closely at. For these reasons, the ancient Egyptian culture places a huge amount of importance on the sky, which can be seen in their mythology, cosmology, relationship with astronomy, and monumental structures.

The Egyptian creation myth is that first there was nothing but a giant body of water, known as Nun. Out of Nun arose an egg, which was Re, the sun (although he could take any form he chose). Re was all-powerful, and any name he spoke would come into being.

[...] The largest pyramid at Giza, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, is the most amazing demonstration by the ancient Egyptians to show their knowledge of the heavens and the Earth, and their devotion to those things. There are two shafts, originally thought to be for ventilation, which align almost perfectly with stars. One aligns with the star Thuban, in Draco. It is not a particularly significant star today, but when the pyramid was built, it was the star that matched most closely with the north celestial pole of the Earth. [...]


[...] The ancient Egyptian year was divided into 12 months with 30 days each. At the end of the year, there was an additional five days of hardcore partying. However, they also used another system to calculate time called decans. They separated the 360-degree sky into 36 sections of ten degrees. Each of these sections was called a decan, and was associated with a constellation in that decan. The decan is where the Greeks got their idea for the Zodiac. The decan system matched up with the 12 month year, so each year, after their five days of fun, the Egyptians would start over both their 12 months and their 36 decans. [...]

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