This article presents new astronomical evidence supporting the existence of an earlier temple at the site of the current temple of Hathor at Dendera in Egypt.
The temple of Hathor is west of the Nile River thirty miles north of Luxor. The construction of the present temple began in the first century BCE during the last Egyptian dynasty and was completed in the first century CE under Roman rule.
The Egyptian goddess Hathor had many aspects: mother or consort of the sky god Horus, a symbol of femininity, a guide to the afterlife, and others. Hathor was often depicted as a cow, or a woman wearing a headdress of cow horns.
The temple and several nearby structures are oriented approximately 17° east of north. Too far north to be aligned to the Sun, Moon, or planets, it is believed the temple was aligned to the rising of a star or constellation associated with Hathor.
One possibility is the constellation Ursa Major, which the Egyptians saw as the representation of a bull, and a star in Ursa Major known as Alkaid. According to Jose Lull and Juan Antonio Belmonte in The Constellations of Ancient Egypt,
“This star could have been used as a reference to establish the axes of several temples, such as that of Dendera, where Alkaid would presumably be the star mentioned in the hieroglyphic texts of the temple of Hathor…”
It is convenient to think of the stars existing on the inside of a celestial sphere. As Earth revolves on its axis, the stars appear to rotate around the celestial poles. At Dendera, the north celestial pole is 26° above the northern horizon. The point on the horizon 17° east of north along the major axis of the temple traces a circle 31.4° away from the north celestial pole. As shown in Figure 1 this path is currently about 10° away from Alkaid. Alkaid thus does not currently rise in line with the temple.
As the tilt of the Earth precesses over a 26,000-year orbit about the ecliptic pole, the north celestial pole follows the path of the dotted line in Figure 2.
There are two points along this path, two times during the precessional cycle when Alkaid rises directly in line with the Temple of Hathor (Figure 3). The most recent was when the current temple was built approximately 2000 years ago. At this point in time, the north celestial pole was between Polaris and Thuban and so there was no pole star. The second time was about 10,000 years ago when the pole star was in the constellation Hercules.
Interpretations of hieroglyphics in the temple and the zodiac of Dendera attach special importance to the astrological sign of Cancer. In contrast to Greek and Babylonian zodiacs, Cancer is placed at the center of the Dendera zodiac. One theory is that the Egyptian civilization began during the age of Cancer. At this time about 10,000 years ago the pole star was in Hercules and Alkaid rose in line with the major axis of the temple just as it did 2000 years ago when the current temple was built (Figure 4).
How is it that the Temple of Hathor aligns with its celestial counterpart Alkaid on these two particular dates?
According to John Anthony West in The Traveler’s Guide to Ancient Egypt
“Like virtually all Egyptian temples, Dendera is built upon the site of a succession of earlier temples. An inscription over one of its subterranean crypts (this one not open to the public) declares the temple had been built ‘according to a plan written in ancient writing upon a goatskin scroll from the time of the Companions of Horus.’ Thus, Ptolemaic architects from the first century B.C. were claiming that the architectural plan for the temple dated to the legendary prehistoric era when the ‘Companions of Horus’ ruled Egypt.”
Concerning this time West states
“The Greek and Roman writers of antiquity, basing their accounts on information received either first- or second-hand from Egyptian sources, claimed far greater antiquity for the civilization of Egypt than that currently established by Egyptologists. These Egyptian sources claimed vast time scales (estimates ranging from 24,000 and 36,000 years) during which Egypt was civilized and ruled respectively by the netterw themselves and by the Shemsu Hor, the companions or followers of Hours.”
Let us evaluate the alignment of the Temple of Hathor in a broader prehistorical timeline. As described in Before Atlantis, inspired by Charles Hapgood’s crustal shift hypothesis, we have computed four past locations of the North Pole based on the alignment of over fifty sites throughout the world. The oldest pole location is in the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian Islands. It turns out that the major axis of the Temple of Hathor points directly toward the Bering Sea pole. By virtue of its association with this ancient pole, this site could be much older than is currently thought.
We propose a new chronology where the site was originally aligned to the north when the pole was in the Bering Sea approximately 125,000 years ago. After the Bering Sea to Norway Sea and subsequent pole shifts, the site became misaligned to the north. At the start of their civilization, the ancient Egyptians, the followers of Horus, co-opted what was already an ancient site. Aligned then with Ursa Major and Alkaid, a temple to the star’s terrestrial counterpart, the goddess Hathor, was built. (In Before Atlantis we propose a similar explanation for the alignment of the Parthenon and its relation to the Greek goddess Athena.) With knowledge of precessional motion, thousands of years later, the Egyptians rebuilt the temple when it again became aligned to Alkaid.
If this explanation is correct then the original site could have been established more than 100,000 years by the mythical netterw who, like Augustus LePlongeon’s naacal, were not gods but an advanced technological civilization that had developed from earlier human sub-species out of Africa 200,000 to 300,00 years ago.
Feature photo courtesy Marilyn Bridges.
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