Star Maps and the Secrets of Senenmut: Astronomical Ceilings and the Hopi Vision of Earth


The builders of the pyramid complex in Egypt had a very good astronomer.  We call him Senenmut (the Mother’s Brother, or the Uncle). 

Today, our astronomers are so good that they build computer programs that plot Earth’s location in space calculating the planet’s movement while looking into the future and going back into the past.  We can tell exactly what the sky and constellations looked like at any given point in time. I think Senenmut could do the same thing.

Statue of Senenmut ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

As Above So Below

Egyptologist believe the 18th dynasty government official Senenmut died in disgrace.  The tomb he built (TT No. 353, going down 60 meters with three finished levels and a fourth unfinished level) was never used for his burial and instead he was buried in TT No. 71, which has been completely destroyed.  His astronomical ceiling was carved on the fourth unfinished level of TT No. 353.

Illustrated map of TT-353, built for Senenmut but not where he was etombed.

Illustrated map of TT-353, built for Senenmut but not where he was etombed. (Courtesy author)

Whenever I think of three finished and the fourth unfinished levels I think of my Hopi friends who believe we are in the fourth unfinished world and have had three previous worlds or finished civilizations before this one.  Whoever built this chamber had already made plans to finish the fourth room and start the fifth.  Many of the underground chambers in Egypt are built with this same design:  three or four levels finished, and the beginning where the next level of construction will take place in the future.  

Senenmut’s Atronomical Chart

Senenmut’s astronomical ceiling.

Senenmut’s astronomical ceiling.

Egyptologist believe that Senenmut’s astronomical ceiling “contains a very precise representation of the northern constellations and the twelve months of the year, symbolized by circles with radii. By study of the positions of the stars depicted, it has been possible to date this ceiling precisely to 1463 BC, corresponding to year 17 of the reign of Tuthmosts III.”  (Page 113, Alberto Siliotti, Guide to the Valley of the Kings).  He does not go on to explain how they came up with this figure.

The ceiling is described as a “Celestial Diagram consisted of a northern and a southern panel which depicted circumpolar constellations in the form of discs; each divided into 24 sections suggesting a 24-hour time period, lunar cycles, and sacred deities of Egypt.  Of the constellations present on the diagram, the only certainly identifiable was Meskhetyu with the Big Dipper because of the difficulty that arises when an attempt is made to match modern day constellations with the depictions made thousands of years ago by the ancient Egyptians.”

– Some of the main figures and stars seen in the diagram are Sirius, Orion, Ursa Major, Draco (may be depicted as hippopotamus with crocodile on its back)

– The four circles on the top right refer to the four months of Akhet (inundation) between July and October

– The two circles at the top left and the two below them refer to the season of Peret (planting season) between November and February

– The four circles on the right refer to the season of Shomu (harvesting season) between March and June.

I feel pretty safe in saying that no one really knows exactly what the mural stands for, but if Senenmut was an astronomer, I am sure he had knowledge of, or created, the astronomic ceiling in the temple of Dendera, built at the same time.

Temple of Dendera

The astronomical ceiling in the Temple of Dendera shows the view of the constellations, and their movement on two different paths and where these two paths cross or overlap.   The whole mural is supported by 12 figures (eight Orion and four Spider-women with two hands each, for a total of 24 points of contact around the circle) and as described by Schwaller, page 173 of Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid , “The mythological figures representing the constellations are entwined in two circles—one around the north pole and one around the pole of the ecliptic.  Where these two circles intersect marks the point of the equinox, or due east.  The zodiac thus becomes a calendar going back to remote antiquity.”

The Zodiac of Dendera

The Zodiac of Dendera ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

So, we know for a fact that the Astronomer Senenmut (or whoever created the ceiling) could plot Earth’s location in space in the past, and I feel safe to assume, he could also plot earth’s location going into the future.  

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