Ancient Egyptian Astronomy

Dr Theophile Obenga

The oldest Pharaonic astronomical texts date back to the ninth Egyptian dynasty (c.2150BC). They gave the names of thirty-six stars which rise within ten days of each other at the same time as the sun. Regarding comets, astronomers seem to have recorded under Thutmosis 111 (1504-1450) the apparition of Halley's comet. This is very possible for if comets visible to the naked eye are rare, comets which describe elliptic orbits are periodically observable: this is the case of Halley's and Encke's comets.The course of stars and planets was also a preocupation of the Egyptians. According to Chabas(1) "Four thousand years ago, the Egyptians know that the earth moved in space and they did not hesitate to attribute the knowledge of this astronomical fact to the generations who had preceded them centuries ago."In antiquity the Egyptian civil calendar was the only calendar to be based on astronomy; this Egyptian calendar is the very foundation of our present calendar. Thales, the Greek sage, received his scientific education in Egypt, where the annual calendar of 365 days had been known as early as 4200BC and where the Great Bear, a constellation of the boreal hemisphere, was well and truly identified by the Egyptians, who called it "Meskhetyou."

(1) Bibliotheque Egyptologique, 1903.Vol.X1.Paris.

This is an extract from Theophile Obenga, Ancient Egypt & Black Africa, Karnak House, London, 1992 ISBN 0-907015070-0

This text is available from the US distributors of Karnak books Africa World Press Theophile Obenga is a Distinguished Scholar who studied Egyptology, Linguistics and Anthropology in universities in France, USA and Switzerland. He worked with the famous Cheikh Anta Diop on various projects and has authored several texts in both English and French. For several years he served as the Director General of CICIBA, a major Center for Bantu Studies located in Gabon, Central Africa.

Send comments to Dr Gloria Emeagwali, History Department, Central

Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT06050