Hitherto hidden from view by layers of soot and grime accumulated over the centuries, a complete depiction of a zodiac has come to light in the famous colonnaded Temple of Esna in Luxor, Egypt.
A team of restorers from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the University of Tübingen in Germany is carrying out an intervention to restore, clean, and return the original colors to the temple’s paintings and inscriptions.
The walls are covered in many places with thick layers of soot, dirt, bird and bat waste, spiders’ nests, as well as salt calcifications, covering this zodiac and other representations of gods and animals that have been found on the ceiling of the southern side of the temple located on the banks of the Nile River.
Never documented find
Professor Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, emphasizes that these scenes were not included in the previous and only scientific publication of the temple, which was made by the French Egyptologist Serge Sonron, between 1963 and 1975, and not they had never seen each other.
This discovery says Waziri, “adds new importance to this temple and its uniqueness.”
In addition to increasing the flow of Egyptian visitors and tourists, Waziri emphasizes that these are ” unique astronomical scenes “, especially since there is no complete representation of the view of the constellations of ancient Egypt except for two examples in the temple of Dandara, in Qena.”
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Zodiac signs, Gods, and Fantastic animals
Professor Hisham Al-Laithi, head of the Egyptian mission and head of the central administration of the Egyptian Antiquities Recording Center, highlights the relevant importance of the astronomical discovery of the zodiac.
“It represents the twelve astronomical constellations, from Aries to Pisces, in addition to the representation of the outer planets, which are Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.”
In addition, it also represents the so-called “seven arrows” and some of the stars or constellations that the ancient Egyptians used to measure time.
Professor Christian Leitz, head of the German mission, explains that scenes of Egyptian deities and animals, including snakes and crocodiles, have been discovered.
There are also scenes of complex creatures, such as a bird with a crocodile’s head, a snake’s tail, and four wings, as well as additional inscriptions in black ink with the names of divine beings.
The history of the temple dates back to Roman times, and its construction began in 186 BC. It took about 400 years to complete its inscriptions when it was finished in 250 AD.
The temple consists of a hall of columns that includes 24 columns with inscriptions and scenes of the Ptolemaic kings and Roman emperors.