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Cultures > Egypt

:: 3100 BC - PRESENT

Cultural Background | Surviving | Finding Meaning in the Cosmos

Finding Meaning in the Cosmos


Sirius: The Egyptians created a myth to explain why Sirius, which they called Sepdet, appeared in the sky right before the flooding of the Nile.

From their mythology, the Egyptians saw a connection between Sepdet's appearance and the beginning of the Nile flood.

They believed the Nile flood was caused by the tears that Isis (the great mother of all gods and nature) shed, after her husband Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth. Sepdet, which we know as Sirius, was believed to be the appearance of Isis in the sky.

Sun: According to one Egyptian myth, the Earth had been created by the god of the sun, whose name was Ra. Ra created the atmosphere, then made the ground of the earth rise out of the waters and eventually he made men and animals.

The great pyramids that the Egyptians built were meant as a symbol of the mound of earth the sun god Ra had pulled out of the waters to create Earth.

A pyramid is a huge stone tomb with a square base and triangular walls that slope to meet in a point at the top. Most of these were built in north Egypt, in worship of the sun god, called Ra.

Each pyramid was a building of many rooms and hallways. It was the dead king, or pharaoh's place in the afterlife. His most prized possessions were placed in the tomb with him and images of what would happen to him in the after life were drawn on the walls. If the dead person had been a good ruler, Egyptians believed that the pharaoh would be transformed and brought to life from the pyramid as a god.

Taurus constellation: Taurus is a constellation in the northern hemisphere that contains the bright star Aldebaran, the Pleiades and Hyades and the Crab Nebula. It looks to the human eye like the front half of a bull. Egyptians believed the constellation was a bull god named Apis.

They worshipped a real bull as a symbol of the god APIs This bull was cared for by high priests, worshipped during annual festivals and then buried after its death in a tomb reserved for all the APIs bulls.

Life and Death
A pyramid is a huge stone tomb with a square base and triangular walls that slope to meet in a point at the top. The ancient Egyptians are well known for building a series of these tombs at Giza in north Egypt.

Researchers have found that all nine of the famous pyramids at Giza are closely aligned to true north. No one knows for certain, however, what method the Egyptians used to determine the north direction.

According to one theory, the Egyptians found the north direction by observing two stars on exact opposite sides of true north which appear to rotate around it. When they are in vertical alignment, as judged by a plumb line, their direction can be taken to be true north with a high accuracy. [A plumb line is a line to which a weight is attached to determine a true vertical alignment.] The stars that the Egyptians used were probably in Ursa Major and Ursa Minor ‹ the constellations known as The Great Bear and The Little Bear. Both of these were in transit in the sky before and after 2467 BC when the Pyramids were being built.

Because of the precession of the Earth¹s axis, these two stars would have the same transits only for a year or so. One would expect greater errors in determining north in the pyramids built before and after 2467 BC. This is exactly what is seen ‹ plotting the estimated construction date of the pyramids against their error in orientation produces a remarkably straight line, with those built before 2467 BC pointing slightly east and those built afterwards pointing slightly west.

The largest of these Giza pyramids is the Great Pyramid, which is located at the extreme northern edge of a limestone plateau at the edge of the Nile flood plain where the river meets the delta.

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Take a look at how the pyramids were built to align with the stars. [enlarge]

Learn more about how other cultures' mythology were influenced by the stars.

Learn about the Gods and Goddesses of Egyptian Mythology.

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