The Mesopotamians and Greeks are frequently credited with developing astronomy. Indeed, Babylonian cuneiform texts show that a sophisticated form of astronomy was already being practised in Mesopotamia by c. 3000 BC. Using archaeological evidence, this talk first examines why the Egyptians became the forgotten ones in the history of astronomy and what they achieved by naked eye astronomy from c. 6500 BC at Nabta Playa to the orientation of temples by the Nile built by Macedonian and Ptolemaic rulers prior to the Roman conquest in 30 BC.
What they saw in the skies and how they interpreted their observations greatly affected their view of the cosmos and the development of a belief system. Evidence from tombs, temples and archaeological sites is used to illustrate their knowledge and interpretation of the skies, the construction of calendars and the building of pyramids. Certain stars, such as Sirius, had great significance for the well-being of Egypt and its rulers – its rising heralded the annual flooding of the Nile. Who swallowed the sun and what grew in the desert at night will be revealed!
The talk concludes with an overview of recent research into the alignment of monuments with celestial bodies throughout Egypt and finally examines some objects that came from the sky and how they affected the Egyptians.
Dr Pauline Norris is a freelance lecturer and writer in Egyptology and Archaeo-astronomy. She obtained a Master of Philosophy degree in Agricultural Science at the University of Wales Aberystwyth then studied Egyptology and gained her Doctorate at the University of Manchester.
She is a member of Newtown Astronomy Society in Mid Wales and has combined her Egyptology and Astronomy interests in the study of archaeo-astronomy as it relates to ancient Egypt.