The tomb of Senenmut (also written Senmut, both are wrong as we show in the next posting) located as Tomb TT353 at Del el-Bahri, Egypt, has what is regarded to be the world's oldest Zodiac inscribed on its ceiling. For a full picture in color see the website of Dr. Karl H. Leser.
We have been able to decipher this Pharaonic Zodiac in some of its essentials and present that decipherment here.
Leser writes as follows, citing to Peter F. Dorman, an expert on Senenmut, along the way:
"Above, the astronomical ceiling from Chamber A, TT353; it is the oldest astronomical presentation known - the next one was found in the tomb of Sethi I. - and naturally, it is the only one in a private tomb (from Dorman, 1991). The astronomical ceiling measures approx. 3x3.6 m at its greatest dimensions.
The ceiling of Chamber A is divided into two sections representing the northern and the southern skies. The southern - upper part shown in the picture above - is decorated with a list of decanal stars, as well as constellations of the southern sky belonging to it like Orion and Sothis (Sopdet). Furthermore, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus are shown and associated deities who are traveling in small boats over the sky. Thus, the southern ceiling marks the hours of the night.
The northern - lower part - shows constellations of the northern sky with the large bear in the center. The other constellations could not be identified. On the right and left of it there are 8 or 4 circles shown and below them several deities each carrying a sun disk towards the center of the picture. The inscriptions associated with the circles mark the original monthly celebrations in the lunar calendar, whereas the deities mark the original days of the lunar month (after Meyer, 1982).
The astronomical ceiling is divided along its east-west axis by a text band composed of five registers. The central line which is wider than the other four registers bears together the titles of Hatshepsut and some titles as well as the name of Senenmut....."
In the Zodiac of Senenmut we see in the middle of the starry ceiling, about 3/4 of the way own, a figure with a spear, which we interpret as Orion, downing the bull, Taurus, just as in the similar theme at Minoan Knossos, on Crete (see the Ancient World Blog).
Moreover, we can easily identify the two large middle vertical lines - which join at the tail of the Bull and at the head of Cetus at Menkar, here a young woman - as marking the line of the Equinoxes.
Given that knowledge, which places the Zodiac of Senenmut at ca. 1500-1400 BC, we can in fact date the starry ceiling to March, 1476 BC when the four depicted planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus) all joined in superconjunction with the Sun (and perhaps also the Moon) at the point of the Vernal Equinox.
The upper graphic is used pursuant to the fair use exception to the copyright laws and is reduced in size from the original graphic found at the website of Dr. Karl H. Leser.
The lower graphic was made by Andis Kaulins using the above graphic as a model. The decipherment of the lower drawing and the setting of the date of Senenmut's heaven to March 1476 BC was made by Andis Kaulins on March 11, 2005.
The above decipherment meshes fairly well with a decipherment made by Andis Kaulins in June of 2001, interpreting similarly the similar Zodiac found in the Tomb of Sethos (who is actually King David).
In the next posting we examine the identity of Senenmut and make a rather spectacular correction.
Egyptology, Zodiac, Ancient Egypt, Astronomy, Astrology