The Mystery About the Senmut Star Map Senmut
presents an entire celestial system for the first time
Ancient star knowledge included astronomy, astrology, and chronometry, and in the past it was an especially important subject in knowledge. A characteristic Egyptian version of this celestial knowledge was in use long before a specific expressed Babylonian astrology was taken up openly in Egypt.
In the Karnak/Thebes temple already at an early stage, an observatory was placed on top of the sanctuary of Khonsu, the Moon god-son. And from most ancient times astronomical lines of sight were used in planning the axes of the temples.
The great number of Senmut’s many posts – in addition to being the administrator of the Egyptian calendar – was reasonable; for instance, the secretary of Pharaoh Amenhotep II was the chief-astronomer at the Karnak (Thebes) Temple and also a surveyor as well as the inventor of the world’s first public book-keeping.
The oldest astronomical traditions in Egypt are scarce and merely a few drawings of constellations. They show in particular Sirius – and the Great Bear, called khepesch (or sometimes meskhetiu) formed as a leg of an ox. Fragments have been found showing the 36 decan-constellations (earliest findings from 2300 BC) marking the Egyptians’ division in 36 sections of the ecliptic (the apparent course of the sun).
However, in the second and latest tomb of Senmut (in Thebes: no. TT353) the presentation was far better than by fragments, because the ceiling of the main chamber is adorned with a detailed astronomical and astro-mythological, complete star map, which for the first time presents an entire celestial system. This impressive map was both a landmark and an invention in Egyptian astronomy. And at all, they are the oldest collected, complete astronomical images.
This unfinished and never used, secret tomb of Senmut was discovered in 1925 and dated to between 1500-1470 BC. The dating will be further elaborated and it will appear that in 1493 BC the construction of the tomb ended abruptly.
It is peculiar that Senmut, whom many researchers presume was of a middle-class descent, has equipped his tomb in this special way not even a Pharaoh had been up to.
Thus the tomb contained a special astronomical equipment, not only the oldest known in Egypt, but still for the next almost 300 years also the only example of such an elaborated, complete star map. It is a fact that after Senmut a few star maps have been found, and normally only with the Pharaohs. But later on, in the tomb of Seti I 1200 BC, such a regular, astronomical and astro-mythological celestial arrangement of stars was found again. And after this there is one with Ramses II, however not so elaborated.
What kind of a man was Senmut, when he could compete on equal terms – even surpass the pharaohs in this for that time so important area? All traces and inscriptions show that although Senmut, besides having a deep knowledge about the stars, was the country’s greatest man after Hatshepsut, and although he was backed up by a strong party, he mysteriously fell in disgrace all of a sudden and disappeared completely. Therefore, Senmut never took this tomb into use, and there are obvious traces showing that the work was interrupted suddenly. Materials from the Senmut tomb show dates made by the workers. The latest dates are from the interruption, which contribute to pinpoint the time when he disappeared.
(The above text is reproduced with permission, – source: Ove von Spaeth’s work, “The Enigmatic Son of Pharaoh’s Daughter”).
Below: The World-axis stretching from the Canopus Star via the Sirius Star up to Vega in the constellation Lyra, the sky’s three most bright stars and they appear on a perfect, straight line. To compare with the Senmut map’s axis – a cosmic factor thus resembling the obelisk symbolism presented in the Egyptian creation myth.