Shrines of ram-headed divinities and Canopus : Skyscaping at Herakleopolis Magna

Part of : Mediterranean archaeology & archaeometry : international journal ; Vol.16, No.4, 2016, pages 125-132

In the first decade of the 21st century, the Egyptian-Spanish Mission on Archaeoastronomy of ancient Egypt performed a detailed statistical analysis of the orientation patterns of the temples of Pharaonic Egypt, resulting in most interesting outcomes such as the justified proposal of seven families of astronomical orientations (Belmonte, Shaltout and Fekri, 2009). A preliminary analysis of what we may dub as cosmic landscapes in certain Egyptian locations, such as the Giza pyramids or Karnak, followed up (Belmonte, 2012: 215-250). On the other hand, the Spanish Archaeological Mission at Herakleopolis Magna has been excavating for several decades in one of the most important ancient sites of Middle Egypt, making extraordinary archaeological discoveries in what once was the capital of Egypt during the 9th and 10th Dynasties and again of a chiefdom for a short period during the Lybian epoch (Pérez Die, 2009). It was hence decided that a new complete survey of the site should be made with an astronomy and landscape perspective in mind. This paper presents the result of such a survey where the relationship between landand skyscape at the main monuments of the city is put in the spotlight. One important outcome has been the possible orientation to Canopus − the second brightest star of Egyptian skies − of the main temple of the city, the one devoted to the patron divinity of Herakelopolis, the ram-headed god Heryshef. Epigraphy is integrated in the analysis and possible mythological relationships are explored, including the connections with other ram-headed deities of the Egyptian pantheon, such as Amun-Re or Banebdjedet. Interestingly, the temples of these divinities at Thebes and Mendes also show alignments that could be related to Canopus, offering a new challenge in the relationship between skyscaping and religion in the civilization of Pharaonic Egypt.
Subject (LC):
Herakleopolis, Heryshef, landscape, skyscape, Canopus, ram-headed deities, Thebes, Mendes
Περιέχει 4 εικόνες
References (1):
  1. Allen, R.H. (1963) Star names, their lore and meaning, New York, Dover Inc. Pub..Belmonte, J.A. (2012) Pirámides, templos y estrellas: astronomía y arqueología en el Egipto antiguo, Barcelona, Crítica.Belmonte, J.A., Molinero Polo, M.A. and Miranda, N. (2009) Unveiling Shesat: new insights into the stretching of the cord ceremony. In In Search of Cosmic Order: selected essays on Egyptian Archaeoastronomy, J.A. Belmonte and M. Shaltout (eds.), Cairo, Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, 195-212.Belmonte, J.A., Shaltout, M. and Fekri, M. (2009) Astronomy, landscape and symbolism: a study of the orientation of ancient Egyptian temples. In In Search of Cosmic Order: selected essays on Egyptian Archaeoastronomy, J.A. Belmonte and M. Shaltout (eds.), Cairo, Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, 213-285.Belmonte, J.A., Pérez Die M.C. and Díaz-Iglesias, L. (2015) Astronomía y paisaje en Heracleopolis Magna: un estudio de los templos. In Ex Aegypto lux et sapientia, Homenatge al profesor Josep Padró Parcerisa, N.Castellano, M.Mascort, C. Piedrafita and J. Vivó (eds.), Nova Studia Aegyptiaca IX, Barcelona, 107-123.Díaz-Iglesias Llanos, L. E. (2012) La proyección mitológica de Heracleópolis Magna: continuidades, transformaciones y contextualización de los mitemas heracleopolitanos en fuentes funerarias y cultuales. Ph.D Thesis, Universidad de La Laguna.Díaz-Iglesias Llanos, L. (2014) El ciclo mítico de Heracleópolis Magna: continuidad y reelaboración a partir de las fuentes funerarias y cultuales. Aula Aegyptiaca Studia VII, Barcelona. 1 vol + 1 CD.Fakhry, A. (2004) Siwa Oasis 5th Ed., Cairo, American University of Cairo Press.Gabolde, L. (1999) Canope et les orientations nord-sud de Karnak étables par Thoutmosis III, Revue d’Égyptologie, Vol. 50, 278-282.González García, A.C. y Belmonte J.A. (2014) Sacred architecture orientation across the Mediterranean: a comparative statistical analysis, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 14, 95-113.González García, A.C. y Belmonte J.A. (2015) The Orientation of Pre-Romanesque Churches in the Iberian Peninsula Nexus Network Journal, Vol. 17, 353-377.Hawkins, G.S. (1973) Beyond Stonehenge, New York, Routledge.Krauss, R. (1997) Astronomische Konzepte und Jenseitsvorstellungen in den Pyramidentexten, Ägyptologische Abhandlung Band 59, Wiesbaden.Lull, J. and Belmonte, J.A. (2009) The constellations of ancient Egypt. In In Search of Cosmic Order: selected essays on Egyptian Archaeoastronomy, J.A. Belmonte and M. Shaltout (eds.), Cairo, Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, 155-195.Naville, E. (1894) Ahnas el Medineh (Heracleopolis Magna): with chapters on the Mendes, the Nome of Thoth, and Leontopolis. Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund 11, London.Pérez Die, M.C. (2009) Excavaciones de la Misión Arqueológica Española en Heracleopolis Magna (Ehnasya el Medina), 54-66. In 120 years of Spanish archaeology in Egypt, M.C. pérez Die and W. Al-Sadiik (eds.), Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura, 54-65.Pérez Die, M.C. (ed.) (2010) Heracleópolis Magna (Ehnasya el Medina, Egipto). La necrópolis “real” del Tercer Periodo Intermedio y su reutilización, Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura, 2 vols. + 1 CD.Pérez Die, M.C. (2012) El proyecto de Investigación “Heracleópolis Magna” (Ehnasya el Medina). Trabajos 2008-2009. In Novos Trabalhos de Egiptologia Ibérica, IV Congreso Ibérico de Egiptología, L.M. De Araujo and J. Das Candeias Sales (eds.), Lisboa, Universidade de Lisboa, 923-935.Piankoff, A. (1942) Le livre du jour et de la nuit, Cairo, IFAO.Redford, D.B. (2010) City of the Ram-Man: the story of ancient Mendes, Princeton, Princeton University press.Shalthout M., Belmonte J.A. and Fekri, M. (2007) On the orientation of ancient Egyptian temples: (3) key points at Lower Egypt and Siwa Oasis, Journal for the History of Astronomy, Vol. 38, 141-160 (PI) and 413-442 (PII).Wilcken, U. (1903) Die berliner Papyrusgrabungen in Herakleopolis Magna im Winter 1898/9, Archiv für Papyrusforschung, Vol. 3, 294-336.