Archaeology news: Temple restoration reveals unknown ancient Egyptian star constellations

More than 200 years ago, an Egyptian temple was discovered in Esna, 60 kilometres south of Luxor in Egypt. A team of German and Egyptian archaeologists have now been trying to restore the temple to its former glory, with some surprising finds.

Beneath layers of soot which have built up in the 2,000 years since the temple was constructed, workers have discovered inscriptions on the walls.

The original paintings and hieroglyphics can now be seen, some of which depict the stars in the sky.

Experts discovered descriptions of the Big Dipper, known as Mesekhtiu to the ancient Egyptians, and Orion, called Sah.

However, there were also descriptions of star constellations which had never been seen before.

One of the constellations revealed was called “Apedu n Ra,” or “the geese of Ra,” who was an Egyptian sun God.

Unfortunately, there were no images to accompany the descriptions, so scientists have so far not been able to decipher which stars the texts refer to.

Egyptologist Professor Christian Leitz from the University of Tübingen in Germany said: “They were previously undetected under the soot and are now being exposed piece by piece.

“Here we have found, for example, the names of ancient Egyptian constellations, which were previously completely unknown.”

The temple was first excavated by French Egyptologist Serge Sauneron in the 20th century.

Mr Saunerron, who died in 1976, recognised the significance of the inscriptions, but was unable to interpret them as they were beneath thick layers of soot and bird excrement.

However, the current restoration has restored the inscriptions to their full glory, including their original colours.

Professor Leitz said: “The hieroglyphics that Sauneron explored were often only very roughly chiselled out, the details only applied by painting them in colour.

“This means that only preliminary versions of the inscriptions had been researched.

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“Only now do we get a picture of the final version.”

Describing the temple, a statement from the University of Tübingen said: “Only the vestibule [called the pronaos] remains, but it is complete.

“At 37 meters long, 20 metres wide and 15 metres high, the sandstone structure was placed in front of the actual temple building under the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) and probably eclipsed it.

“The roof is supported by 24 columns, the capitals of the 18 free-standing columns are decorated with different plant motifs.”

Tübingen Egyptologist Daniel von Recklinghausen said that “in Egyptian temple architecture this is an absolute exception.”

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