Ancient Egyptian Sky Lore: Rethinking the Conventional Wisdom


Ancient Egyptian Sky Lore Review by Elizabeth Hazel



Re-visioning Ancient Egyptian “Astronomy” by Ray Grasse

With impressive scholarship, Conman manages to set the record straight on a number of common misunderstandings about ancient Egyptian culture, focusing particularly on how that culture viewed the sky. She makes a compelling case for the fact that it’s a mistake to try and understand any ancient culture through modern sensibilities, rather than trying to grasp how they themselves regarded the world–and that’s especially clear when it comes to Egypt.

A central focus of her book is a two hundred year-old mistake that’s taken on a life of its own in mainstream Egyptology: the misidentification of two figures in Greco-Roman Egyptian religious art –Orion and the Big Dipper. Chapter 1 explains the nature of that error, while chapter 2 makes a strong case for the fact that these two figures are actually two of the planets, based on textual evidence some 1000 years older. The rest of the book goes step by step, deconstructing the currently accepted identifications of these star patterns. Conman shows how various texts can be understood as referring to the planets instead of the misidentified constellations, offering a more coherent view of the ancient Egyptians and their understanding of the sky.

She also points out how much Greco-Roman era astrological art is actually consistent with earlier Egyptian art thousands of years older, and shows that much of what is normally categorized as “astronomical” in ancient Egyptian art is actually astrological in nature, or proto-astrological. The book presumes a certain level of familiarity with Egyptological terms and research, but not enough to pose serious problems for any interested reader. Her work will be of particular interest to archeoastronomers, students of ancient Egypt, and even astrologers, since her research sheds light on the history of that discipline.

by Ray Grasse January 22, 2014