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Egypt’s First Complete Zodiac Uncovered in Esna Temple, Luxor

Egypt’s First Complete Zodiac
Ancient Sagittarius zodiac sign found at the Esna temple in Egypt. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities / Public Domain

A group of specialists from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities recently made a significant discovery when they uncovered a zodiac that had never been seen before.

The zodiac is located on the roof of the southern hall of the Esna Temple in Luxor Governorate. Along with the zodiac, there were also images of gods and animals that had never been documented before.

This important discovery was made during a project that aimed to document and restore the Esna Temple, as well as showcase its original colors. The project was led by the Egyptian-German archaeological mission.

Dr. Mostafa Waziry, who is the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, emphasized that the zodiac inscriptions were not found in the previous scientific documentation of the Temple of Esna by the French Egyptologist Serge Sauneron.

Dr. Waziri also noted that this discovery would significantly increase the number of visitors, both Egyptians and tourists, who are encouraged to visit the temple to see these unique astronomical scenes, especially since there are only two other examples of complete representations of the Zodiac in ancient Egypt, both found in the Dendera Temple complex in Qena Governorate.

A complete series of 12 zodiac symbols

Egyptian officials said that the discovery included a complete series of 12 zodiac symbols painted on a light blue background. The blue background of the symbols can be seen in the images shared by the Ministry.

The photos show two figures, colored red, standing facing each other and holding hands. These figures represent the Gemini symbol. A yellow scorpion surrounded by white stars represents the Scorpio sign, and a creature that looks like a centaur with two faces, holding a bow and arrow, represents Sagittarius.

According to Dr. Christian Leitz, head of the German side of the mission, the restoration team also found depictions of three  Egyptian gods, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, and of animals, including snakes and crocodiles, as well as representations of composite creatures used by the ancient Egyptians to measure time. These included a serpent with a ram’s head and a bird with a crocodile head and a snake’s tail. Inscriptions in black ink with the names of the divine creatures were also found.

A brief history of The Temple of Esna

The Khnum Temple in Esna, also referred to as the Esna Temple, was constructed to honor the god Khnum, along with his consorts Menhit and Nebtu, their children Heka, and the goddess Neith.

The temple was built using red sandstone, and its entrance was made up of six rows of four columns each. The columns featured capitals designed like lotus leaves.

However, each column was unique and differed from the others. The temple also had inscriptions in hieroglyphics which dated back to the reign of Decius, who ruled from 249 to 251 BC.

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