The author wishes to thank the readers for all their kind interest, letters with
enlightening questions, and protests as well, concerning the paper
"Dating the Oldest Egyptian Star Map" .
By this treatise, of
July-August 2000, Ove von Spaeth introduced an astronomical
method (developed by OvS 1984) for an exact dating of the star map of Senmut (Senenmut).
The treatise in question was published in: "Centaurus International Magazine
of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology" 42;3, 2000,
The resulting date and
its possible consequences for a more precise dating of historical events,
not only in Egypt but also in ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean
cultures, may, by its interesting perspectives, contribute to the needed
enhancement of their
The following answers are connected to specific questions concerning the
original text of the treatise and should not be quoted as completely
independent statements. On their own, such statements may not in a
satisfactory way cover the right context in full.
From the libraries' article-bases the copies (digital, xerox, etc.) of the
treatise can be requested concerning the above mentioned issue of Centaurus.
It has the reference No. ISSN 0008-8994. Or the treatise to be downloaded via
web-page "The Senmut Star
Map Decoded". * Observe
too: 1. It might be
useful noticing that Senmut’s star map was constructed and installed a number
of the years later than when the calculated and recorded celestial events took
place. 2. Also notice
that the map is recording even several celestial events having taken place
individually at different times although they are still gathered on the same
map. 3. Senmut’s map
design is by some principles the same as depicted on clepsydras (‘water-clocks’)
but it is the first time to our knowledge that such a detailed big star map
has been seen in total. Clepsydras seem to have existed prior to Senmut but
have not been found.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - CONCERNING :
Astronomy and Egyptology
1. Dating the Solar Eclipse
A frequently asked question, which seems to be of special interest (though
unimportant for the exact dating of the star map), is the dating of a solar
eclipse in connection with the appearance of the planetary grouping shown on
the Senmut star map. The map did not predict an eclipse - but indicates
having recorded one.
First of all, this
does not mean that the eclipse had to be visible in Egypt. A
missing visibility should not be a condition to avoid notifying the eclipse
on the star map. However, this is not what many critics wrongly have
presupposed without scientific basis. According to some of
these critics' calculations (done without advanced astronomic
computerprogrammes or knowledge) the eclipse should instead have been
observed in e.g. "the South Passific" - thus they create
artificial problems. The ancient Egyptians were able to calculate or record the
existence of the eclipse in any case. See additionary information in
paragraphs 5, 9, and 11.
Furthermore, even a variation of
plus/minus some hours for the eclipse appearance does not disturb the dating
of the celestial arrangement as depicted on the map. The fact that
alternative methods of calculation might make some difference seemed too
obvious to mention. Nevertheless, it now seems that an added note serving
this purpose would have been appreciated. (And to the following, when
somebody might suggest alternative hours for the eclipse, this could not in
any way be surpassing or changing the option
already given for the fixation of the hour).
NOTE (1a): COUNTING OF
Note, please, the fact that all years B.C. when appearing in Ove von
Spaeth's texts concerned are counted without a year zero - thus, for the
sake of historians and Egyptologists.
All this was established in order to be in accordance with historians'
older historic references, materials, and whole tradition. A residual
from Julian calendar style, for instance, the year of 1534 B.C. will
thus be equal to the astronomy-counted year of "minus"-1533.
This was done in favour of the historians and Egyptologists who may have
more difficulties by changing from one system to another, than in the
case of e.g. astronomers
who can be helped by their special computer programmes.
2. The Precession
Some of the small variations and perturbations connected to the
precession of the vernal equinox, in the more precise details (cf. the
treatise's p.172), were not known to experts of astronomical calculation -
i.e. not till after ca.1950. According to questions about this, it seems that
it was expressed too shortly and may deserve further explanation:
The expanded account (also supported by Owen Gingerich, Research Professor in Astronomy and the History
of Science at the Smithsonian Institution) states that the experts did not
have accurate values for the secular acceleration in ancient time, and thus
the correction between ephemeris time (for which the ephemeris tables were
made) and universal time (the observed quantity) was not precisely known.
This would have a considerable effect on the position of the path of
totality for a solar eclipse, but comparatively little on whether or not a partial solar eclipse could be seen.
3. The Delta-T Problem
Independent of the planet-calculation theories the most important matter
is that the result strongly depends upon the choice of formula of Delta-T
for the ephemeris time. Regarding some specific technical questions,
problems similar to the one cited above, may arise when using the theories
of e.g. Bretagnon or Chapront and others, all making use of the best modern
theories (contributed also by the most recent measurements of the Moon's
conditions of distance and velocity etc. - e.g. achieved by laser beams
reflected from mirrors placed on the surface of the Moon).
We only know of approx. 180 Delta-T values of the years from 1620 AD and up to around 2000 AD. (cf. Jean Meeus: "Astronomical Algorithms", Richmond, Virginia 1991, table 9.A) They
are from the time where astronomers - a few - began to make records of their
observations. From approximately 1660 the records being more precise, and around 1750 the number of records extended sufficiently to make some simple
statistic calculations of Delta-T for this short span of time.
This scarce material of
merely approx. 180 years without any regularity of the Delta-T values varying
between +124 to -6.7, naturally, is not possible to use as any safe base of
calculating Delta-T the 3.500 years back in time.
extrapolations by the best of today's techniques are not able to produce a
result just roughly precise. This uncertainty is why there already exist
several ingenious theories for using Delta-T for going back in time! And they all end up with different results none better than the other. Formulae
based on such theories as presented e.g. in "Nautical Almanac" are not, and never were, authoritative.
Surprisingly, very few
take into consideration or even know about the existence of several
competent but different theories. This goes, too, for ready-bought lap-top
astronomy device as well as some even more powerful computer programmes of
Thus, a Delta-T value for ancient times is not possible to fix or extrapolate
even to be 60-70 percent correctly, and nobody should have any firm "religious"
beliefs that one of these values or figures - unavoidingly being "relative" - should constitute any "absolute" figure.
Calculations with one or
another of these figures, as have been done frequently in modern literature on
ancient time's astronomical phenomena - and from there, comparing the results
with the result presented in the paper on Dating the Senmut Map, and then trying
to show the latter being wrong, is not possible by a true scientific view.
4. Which Theory to Be Applied?
Moreover, by applying more recent improved formulae when calculating the
time of an ancient eclipse, it would not always be sufficient just to select
a fixed formula from some of the new publications on the subject. This is
because the perturbations of the ephemeris time, over epochs of long
duration, often are unpredictable: In order to arrive at a more realistic
result, the method of using one formula for the years back to ca. 1600 AD, another for the years back to
ca. 400 AD, and yet a third for going still
further back, etc., will often prove preferable (e.g. Jean Meeus'
"Astronomical Algorithms" [Richmond, Va.,1991 and later updating] would also
be of some help).
The results of these
kinds of methods, however, are not final and in the future, of course, new improvements will still be achieved. It will still be the case in the years
to come: the ephemeris time still has no empiric fixed value, thus it is
hardly possible to calculate/predict with a sufficiently high precision.
In order to cover a vast
number of variations in the elements of planetary orbits, a full-scale
operation of the collection of formulae, such as the one known as VSOP 87, would demand thousands of components of formulae for most of the celestial
bodies; yet, in each case, a few hundred were sufficient when analysing the
Senmut star map.
We must (also) emphasize
F.R. Stephenson's excellent "Historical Eclipses" (1997). It goes far back, e.g. to be used in connection with the famous earliest solar eclipse of the
Babylonian record (763 BC); and even for a fair dating of one of the oldest
Chinese records of an eclipse (1050 BC). Stephenson's "Historical Eclipses"
is p.t. one of the best publications in this field, but still it must be
borne in mind that the Senmut star map is 500-800 years further back in
As for the eclipse in the texts of the Senmut star map, nothing is said
concerning the visibility of the solar eclipse. The important point,
however, is that the conjunction of sun/moon (and here, as it turned out, as
an eclipse) was recorded on the map at all.
Other questions concern the ability of the Egyptians to calculate the
positions of celestial bodies and eclipses. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus
stated (ca. 50 BC) categorically that the ancient Egyptian astronomers
possessed the ability to predict solar eclipses. Greek author and scholar
Plutarch (46-125 AD) related that the ancient Egyptians explained solar
eclipses by the passage of the Moon between the Sun and the Earth in
daylight hours. Further, the famous "Vienna Papyrus" describes lunar and
solar eclipses and their implications and presents great knowledge of
Greek-Egyptian scholar and Father of Church, Clement of Alexandria (150-215
AD), relates to temple libraries containing a 36- (or 42- or even) 50-volume book-series "of Thoth" preserved by
the priests of ancient Egypt - four of the volumes treating astronomical subjects.
One book dealt with the "constitution of the Sun and Moon" and another "the
conjunctions and variations of the light of the Sun and Moon". In these
books it was axiomatic that it was a valued skill of the ancient Egyptian
astronomer-priests to predict eclipses.
The books were
collected by the founder of the Alexandrian library, king Ptolemy II,
ca. 300 BC, from all of Egypt's ancient temple libraries - the texts
being often from traditions far
more ancient than any early Greek influence.
In 1930 some Italian archaeologists found an Egyptian temple library containing approx.
500 volumes beneath the 2,300 years old Tebtunis temple ruins, in Fayum.
Considerably many of the books concern astronomy and astrology. It is the
only temple library of ancient Egypt of which substantial remains are
preserved. (Today, most of the immense literary material is at the Berkeley
and Michigan Universities, British Museum, and the Carlsberg Collection,
access to similar ancient Egyptian sources and, of course, later Greek
sources, the Egyptian-Greek historian, hieroglyph scholar, and stoic
philosopher, Chaeramon of Alexandria - who ca. 40 AD was the chief librarian
of the Alexandrian Library - wrote several treatises on the stars and about
A small temple from
Debod - in an area of Lower Nubia since 1960's permanently flooded - was
originally constructed in 200 BC, conditioned to completely adapt the very old
traditions of Egyptian temple architecture. However, today it is saved from the
flooding and reconstructed in Madrid, Spain. In order to preserve what was a
treasure of highest value also this temple has a special room, the temple
library: pr mDAt , the 'house of books'. Like other similar known temple
libraries, e.g. in Denderah and Philae, the Debod temple library contained texts
of sacred contents, as well as astronomy, medicine, besides administration papers and
inventory lists, etc. On the walls of the library room
ancient graffiti showing astronomical notes, diagrams and geometry, the golden
section or ratio, etc. - a further physical proof of this culture's wide-spread
organized astronomical knowledge.
The very existence of the
precise planetary positions on the Senmut star map, and on other star maps
of that era ca. 1500-1300 BC, demonstrates an expertise concerning the
calculations of planetary positions. The fact that these maps include such
details as a retrograde planet - Mars - and a solar eclipse position (proven
to be exactly as stated on the Senmut map), exclude any possibility of
A thousand years before
the time of Senmut, the astronomer-priests were developing such skills by
constant observation of the firmament, which necessitated the keeping of
accurate records, especially with regard to calculating celestial positions
and cyclic phenomena. The data were used for the sun- and star-related
calendars as well as the "star clock". Records of such astronomical
calculations, however, do not seem to have survived, although there are
examples of very ancient calendars. But as documented by e.g. inscriptions -
a planet "...travels backwards..." - a retrograde movement of a planet placed opposite to the sun was a well-known phenomenon (cf. the paper's
paragraphs 3 and 6, and note 3).
The precise positioning
of planets by observing them, even in bright daylight, from the bottom of
deep wells or shafts directly (and probably less by oblique
mirror-reflection in a water surface in the well), was a widely known
practice in all ancient cultures.
NOTE (5a): It has been doubted - under the modern time's drawback of
historical knowledge - and has been called "a myth" that astronomers of
ancient times were able to use wells/shafts at all, in order to make observations
from them. Besides, especially Venus - and also e.g. Jupiter in some
cases - can sometimes
be daylight objects.
Plato (428-348 BC)
mentions that the philosopher Thales of Miletus (ca. 640-547 BC) had an accident in a well while observing the stars. - And the Greek author
Aesop (ca. 620-560 BC) tells similarly concerning another astronomer in a well-shaft. An ancient apocryphal text, ca. 100 AD, from Syria which at
that time was influenced by Christianity, tells about the magoi, i.e.
some Babylonian astronomers and astrologers, who by observing a certain
star (later called "the Bethlehem Star") by the mirroring water surface
in a well in Northern Palestine, were able to calculate and find a certain local direction.
None of these events
would be understood by contemporaries, if this practice was not well
Furthermore, today it is frequently forgotten that through the entire era of
antiquity much of the important information was, quite normally, conveyed
and preserved by presenting the very facts and data of the information as a
dialogue or a mythically formed narrative.
One of the most learned
and respected Greek scholars, Eratosthenes (276-194 BC), director of the
great Alexandrian Library, calculated the circumference of the Earth by also
using a great well shaft, with a staircase to the bottom - to observe the
lack of shadows by the sun's meridian passage at summer solstice. This well
- a Nilometer from ancient pharaonic times - is situated on the Elephantine
Island in the Nile at Syene (Aswan) in Upper Egypt. However, today this
event as well as the method are being claimed a myth by some academics.
On the contrary, the
great thing is that there was a very ancient knowledge concerning the
existence of the measure of the Earth's circumference - and also great that
Eratosthenes from the said depots of knowledge was thus able to catch the
information of this and the method to prove it, as measuring shadow angles
was a very old practise in Egypt.
A great civilization
during several thousands of years has, naturally, accumulated large amounts
of knowledge. If it wasn't so, then we should be surprised instead of
somewhat arrogantly claiming that things we, in the present, do not fully
understand are just a myth - as in the case of accounts about the great
knowledge of the ancients. Even the mathematical and astronomical skills may
only represent a fraction of what they really could have known.
Furthermore, one of the oldest known Egyptian presentations of a
planetary position, places Jupiter close to the decan (celestial sector of
10-degrees) of Sirius. This dates back some 4200 years, and is recorded on a
fragment of a starclock-diagram depicted inside a coffin-lid (on Heny's
coffin) - one of the traditional methods of recording.
NOTE (5b): The application of geometrical calculations to
the numbers in use by the astronomy implies a highly sophisticated stage
of mathematic-geometrical skills by the ancient Egyptians. Indeed, this
is confirmed by the mathematical (and geometrical) Papyrus Rhind, ca.
Egyptian knowledge was famous - and in later times, Pythagoras coined
his theorem of the right-angled triangle, ca. 550 BC, after having
studied 22 years in Egypt (and some years in Babylonia too). - And Plato
defined the Platonic solids, ca. 400 BC, after his 13 years of
studies in Egypt, according to his pupil Eudoxus. - Especially Thales of
Miletus brought geometry from Egypt to Greece and systematized it to an
extend which became culminating in Euclid's work "The Elements", 300 BC.
In the case of Thales it is interesting that the Egyptians de facto knew
trigonometry with tangent etc.
The concept of pi was
known in Ancient Egypt. Much later, around 250 BC, Archimedes of
Syracuse found that pi is somewhere about 3.14 (in fractions, Greeks did
not have decimals). The digits of pi never end, nor has anyone detected
an orderly pattern in their arrangement. Furthermore, pi is a
transcendental number, i.e. a number which can't be expressed in any
finite series of either arithmetical or algebraic operations. Pi
transcends them. And pi is indescribable and unfitted to all rational methods to locate it.
For the present, we don't
know to what extend this knowledge was perceived by the ancient
Egyptians. When pi was applied to the more practical works all
the conditions were not necessary to bring about.
Egyptian written reference to pi occurs in the afore-mentioned
Papyrus Rhind - cf. below, note 5c - a scroll made by the scribe Ahmesis
of 15th Dynasty reign (Middle Kingdom era) of the Hyksos pharaoh, Apepi
NOTE (5c): The advanced levels of studies by the ancients were
connected to the religious-mystical tradition, and in the Papyrus Rhind
the opening words state about the document's own text that it is: "The
Entrance Into the Knowledge of All Existing Things and All Mysterious
This scroll presents 87 various mathematical problems and their
solutions. Problem 48 and 50 concerns the area of a circle to be found
by using - probably for practical reasons - a rough sort of pi
(here, 3.16049): to let the area of a circular field with a diameter of
9 units be the same as a square (quadrilateral) field having a side of
The scribe Ahmesis remarks that he
has composed the scroll "in likeness to writings made of the ancients" -
in this case: the time of pharaoh Amenemhet III (1842-1797 BC).
The 5.5 m long Rhind Papyrus scroll, found in the ruins of a small building in connection with the Ramesseum at Thebes/Luxor, was here
acquired in 1858 by lawyer and
excavator Alexander Henry Rind.
exists several indications for the knowledge of pi going much further back in
time, e.g. the 4th dynasty, 2500 BC, when integrated into the
construction of the pyramids and their manifest star-positions-related
Moreover, a precise
knowledge of pi was existing even before the pyramids, thus more than
4,500 years ago. An important Egyptian measuring-unit is the cubit,
which has an exact pi-relation to another Egyptian
measuring-unit, the remen. Here, 1 remen constitutes the radius
of a cubit-square's circumscribed circle. Thus, these two standard
measuring-units were more easy and correct in use than calculating by
6. Astronomical Plausibility Of the Original Egyptian Data
Most often it would be a premature conclusion just to state that
unexpected words or forms in a text from an ancient historical material
derive from being wrongly written or copied. Other possible solutions should
be examined thoroughly.
The observation that the
Senmut-map presents a concrete celestial conjunction 1534 BC seems to be
supported by the subsequent maps in the following centuries demonstrating
that these conditions are reflected here, too. These maps use the
Senmut-model, but probably due to small changes in the conjunctions - e.g.
in connection with Mars - the pattern, accordingly, has been changed
Therefore, in most cases these differences were not caused by erroneous copying but by accepted and
necessary flexibility. Only in much later times clues may point to
astronomers being less involved, or not involved at all, at the construction
of the maps often giving the impression of being slavish copies.
7. Translating the Expression Signifying Mars
The treatise's translation p.166 concerning tms hntt (or
tms(n) xnt.t by the Schenkel-system) has been disputed. We know
that the last of these Egyptian words, hntt , is always a noun.
Accordingly, the translation would be expressed like "the red in (an) upstream-sailing" (cf., too, Erman & Grapow: Wörterbuch der Aegyptischen
Sprache, Band 5, Seite 309).
Concerning the planets connected to the boats
depicted in their astronomical positions on the map, expressing the nature
of the planets' movement (cf. the treatise's p.164 and 166), the
"upstream-sailing" constitutes the most excellent description of the red
Mars (in its west-to-south position) and its sliding movement towards the
This kind of literally
translation would of course be less intelligible to e.g. historians and
astronomers, to whom the inter-disciplinary information of the treatise is
directed as well. Nobody except Egyptologists would have a chance of knowing
that "upstream-sailing" was a common phrase connected with the sailing
towards the South, originally referring to the Nile as the all-dominating
By this the translation,
as presented in the treatise (p.166, "the red travels/sails southwarth"),
provides a valid interpretation of the full meaning of the Egyptian
expression, bearing in mind that it is not always possible to translate the
Ancient Egyptian language into plain English in a "direct form".
8. The Mars-signification In Relation To the Age Of the Senmut Map
Concerning the above mentioned tms n hntt on the
Senmut star map - cf. the treatise's paragraph 3 - the following note may be
added: The early existence of several variants of this expression is
well known, e.g. tms n hnt and tms n hnty
etc., several of which go back to the star clock diagrams belonging to the
early coffin groups (ca. 2200 BC). However, the precise combination in our
case, tms n hntt , seems to be found on the Senmut star
map for the first time.
And it would not be
possible to signify Mars by other variations hitherto known concerning the
spelling and combination. In the actual situation Mars fits extremely well
and with a very high degree of plausibility. Being aware that by itself this
is no final proof - it is, nevertheless, a strong indicator well supported
by astronomy and by the context.
Furthermore, it is a fact
that by the ancient Egyptian concept Horus is specifically represented in the bow of Ra's boat - as is Horus
of the Dwa.t - cf. tradition like in the "Pyramid Texts" 1000
years before Senmut's time.
This is coupled with the fact
that the bow,
knt , of this boat is signified by almost the same name (cf.
Egyptian tradition of widely using strong "word-plays") as the presumed
Mars-boat on Senmuts star map. This is a name/word appearing elsewhere as
Hr knt which is an epithet of Horus as a star-god (cf.
that in numerous cases Horus is used, too, as an indicator of planets) - all of this also signify the existence of Mars on the Senmut map, which
accordingly is showing the true location of Mars in the real sky at the very
time of the conjunction. You have to see more material about the whole
connection in the treatise.
9. The Eclipse - Indications Also By Tradition
According to Neugebauer & Parker ("EAT III", p.113): "... the meaning of
'rt is unknown ...". Yet, this condition seems to be excluded in
case of looking at the whole context concerning the decans no.31-35 on the
Senmut star-map. Here, in decan no.31 the hieroglyphs spell 'rt Hr (iret Her) , i.e. "Horus' eye", the meaning of which has always
been accepted also as "the eye of the Sun or Moon". Being aware that in
several cases some decans may be submitted to the same god, this will have
no influence on the matter being demonstrated here.
In Ove von Spaeth's paper
in "Centaurus" (42;3, 2000) it is shown on p.171, by e.g. the authoritative
translations of "Book of the Dead" that by being connected to the word
jatet the expression in question means "eclipse" in this
source as well as in similar contexts. The word jatet is
not to be found in decan no.31 or its vicinity, but there are other signs
(recorded in the paper) showing the astronomical proven eclipse, which is
indicated on this map very exactly. The exactitude and reliability are due to the extraordinary professional construction of the Senmut star-map.
One of the bases for
this step demonstrates that reasons of tradition and readability would
prohibit Senmut from changing the names of the decans or make any essential
additions to them to fit his purpose of marking the (astronomical proven)
eclipse. His alternative option was to move decan no.31, and hereby the text
"Horus' eye", the Sun/the Moon", to about 2-3 columns away to hit the exact
spot on the map, in accordance with the, already proven, celestial position
where the eclipse took place. (Senmut's moving of these decans is confirmed
by Neugebauer & Parker).
In this way any
professional and experienced ancient Egyptian astronomer, unavoidable, would
have to be aware of the little, yet unusual break of the normal sequence of
decans - and, further, from the decan's text to connect to the Sun and its
conjunction with the Moon - thus becoming aware of indications of the
special condition, namely the eclipse, which is precisely to be located by
the new placement of decan no.31.
See next paragraph, too.
10. Confirmed by Tradition of Seti and Ramses
The paper of Ove von Spaeth brings to light, p.172, the indication
brought about by Senmut's well known (Neugebauer, "EAT") "reshuffle" of
decans no.31-35 within their limited celestial sector that his action has been provided in order to achieve several benefits to this map-construction
by its expression of the actual celestial event.
Among these decans a
special one seems to be demonstrating the eclipse. This is in full
accordance - and an elegant move too - with authoritative agreements about
ancient Egyptian tradition (e.g. making unusual changes in the layout of a
hieroglyphic text or in the features of a statue intending to present an extra meaning or message beyond what is contented in the ordinary text or
Furthermore, this is
supported by traces of the tradition's pattern or "standard" in the context.
Also the similar conjunctions on later star maps - of Amenhotep III, Seti I,
and Ramses II - include new moon exactly as in the true astronomical
reality. One new moon being a solar eclipse (possibly visible) in the case
of Rameses II.
11. The Eclipse Time - No Option Is Perfect
Concerning the visibility at any location it should be recalled,
especially because of the unpredictable Delta-T (cf. above: section 3) that
not even the newest formulas as well as the newest publications of
solar/lunar-planetary tables are able to prove an exact time of appearance
of an 3500-year-old eclipse. Therefore, it will be contra-productive to
dismiss the eclipse-date proposed in the paper and then proclaim another
eclipse-time to be "more correct" by a counting based on some other of the
As stated elsewhere, this
eclipse does not have to mean anything for the exactness of the dating of the map, but once
discovered it was too tempting to present this information.
The basic data and facts are found in the paper in question. Whereas the text, belonging to Fig.4 on p.173:
"hieroglyphic signs for a solar eclipse ..." may benefit from being
expressed as: "... hieroglyphic signs, which should lead to
indications of the solar eclipse ...".
To calculate or fix precise dating of the pharaohs of the 18th dynasty is a well-known problem, and questions have been asked about this in relation to the Senmut map. The matter is, however, quite outside the framework of the
investigation presented in the treatise.
On p.171 is stated that the problem
deserves its own research (and may then be supported by the data of the star
map, as the exactness of astronomy still being one of the best tools for
fixing the drifting or relative dating of e.g. the 18th and 19th dynasty).
the 18th dynasty Egyptology has, hitherto, dealt with "relative chronology"
in lack of "absolute chronology". At the international scientific congress
about "absolute chronology" it was demonstrated that astronomy confirms a
high-date time-frame and is the most precise dating method. Cf. Erik Hornung,
& Wolfgang Helck, & Kenneth A. Kitchen, et al.: "High, Middle or Low?" I-II,
Acts of International Colloquium on Absolute Chronology" held at the
University of Gothenburg 20th-22nd August 1987.
inferences are supported by a substantial amount of dating-material based on
already existing, scientifically exact time-measurements from archaeology,
dendro-chronology etc. concerning ancient Eastern Mediterranean cultures. -
Especially, the dating of the Santorini-vulcano's gigantic eruption as an important agreed-upon time-reference to history and archaeology (e.g., C.
Hammer et al.: "Minoan Eruption of Santorini in Greece Dated to 1646 BC",
Nature, Vol.328, 1987, pp 517-519 - naturally, with more reliable details than
C-14 methods applied so far back in time). All of which will
cause chronology of the actual period in Egypt to be moved about 15-30 years
back in time (varying, depending on which of the Egyptologists' systems being applied). This, too, demonstrates to fit exactly with the result of
the decoding of the Senmut star map.
13. Senmut and The Chronology
Questions about the conjunction of 1534 BC taking place already within
the earliest years of Senmut's lifetime: The date of the conjunction fits
easily with the star map being depicted about 35 years later, when Senmut
was the high-ranking administrator of government under Hatshepsut. Likewise,
similar conjunctions in the era of e.g. Seti I, Ramses II etc. appeared
within their lifetimes and even within their reigns.
Astronomy states the time
of the conjunctions depicted on several star maps, and the inscriptions
showing their owners. To make these persons fit in, chronologically, is a task for Egyptology, not astronomy. As a first step the
low-dating (in use
by a number of schools of Egyptology) of the era in question should be
14. Senmut's Star Map - the Oldest Known Celestial Map
The decans, star clocks, and star maps varied during the lengths of traditions.
Regarding traditions which are older than Senmut's star map, the treatise's
text p.164 refers to sidereal clocks/calendars of the decan diagram-type.
For instance, the information from the "Heny's Coffin" from the time of Old Kingdom (covered by p.164's
reference to Pogo 1932) is, as a fact, not sufficient to make a real star map.
Another example is an astronomical diagram from the time of Middle Kingdom, mentioned by Osing &
Rosati 1998 (not specified in the Bibliography in the treatise), consisting,
too, of only pre-stage elements anticipating the real star map like the one
found for the first time in the case of Senmut.
Scepticism is of course indispensable as it contributes to our research by obtaining better information. Given that there is no safe way of
extrapolating so far back in time, it would of course be risky to give the
exact hour of an eclipse 3500 years ago, as has been the case in the paper
discussed. (It was intended to serve as an additional illustration of
how precise the information of the Senmut map might be). As stated above, it
is of no significance for the basic dating of this star map. In any case,
the general positions in the sky for the Sun, Moon, and all the planets are
correct and unambiguous.
And here the rare and unusual clue provides further confirmation: the retrograde Mars is one (but
not the only one, of course) of
the most important factors! (We may recall that a retrograde Mars can be of
great help - as it once, in quite another and greater matter, puzzled Tycho
Brahe, and from him Kepler inherited this problem and investigated it
further, ending up with his new system).
Errata. For the sake of good order it should be mentioned
that minor misprints unfortunately appeared during the print editor’s
formatting of the manuscript and again during the last phases of the
printing-process of Centaurus 42:3 - but will certainly not
be of any possible effect of changing the understanding of the context - and
can be found (in some of the first prints) at: p.159 Seinenmut, read Senenmut; p.164 12-month circles, read 12 month-circles; p.166 Hrt dsr , read Hr dsr ;
p.175 (at 1533 June 10:) "Rx" is, incorrectly, moved away from its
connection to Mercury; p.177 Meus, read Meeus; p.178 Helk, read
Helck; p.179 n.3 1497 BC and 1496 BC, read 1297 BC and 1296 BC -
and n.5 Fourrier and Galliot, read Fourier and Gaillot.
And in the next issue of
Centaurus (42:4) in the Index for year 2000, unfortunately, the paper in
question is mixed up with another paper.
Ove von Spaeth
Copenhagen, (Sep.2000; Oct.2001; Aug.2002) - December 2002
Senmut's star map showing some of the decans of most significance.
Egyptian temple in Debod (rescued in the 1960's from artificial flood in modern
Sudan, the building now is re-established in Madrid, Spain). Among other things,
it contains a library room (left),
one of the most safe or protected rooms, the treasury, in any temple. It is
known from finds in other temple ruins that the books, i.e. scrolls and
documents, were considered as a real treasure including, especially, the many books on
astronomy, mathematics and geometry.
A special treasure of knowledge and wisdom
of Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance had originated in Ancient Egypt -
and was here known to connect also with the historical Moses' dramatic
fate and mystery.
Ove von Spaeth has
written an intriguing, new-orientating work presenting this still
influential background of our civilization. • His interdisciplinary
research on history, archaeology, and anthropology goes deeply into
Egyptian tradition, history of religion, initiation cults, star-knowledge,
and mythology - relating to biblical studies, the Rabbinical Writings,
and the authors of Antiquity. • Each volume offers unique insights not
Special information is
presented by clicking on the individual cover illustrations: