Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

Science                                 161

discoveries may necessitate considerable modification of the con-
clusions expressed in this chapter.

The outstanding achievement of the Ancient Egyptians in
science was the introduction of the first practical calendar. It
is dealt with in Chapter I.
Star diagrams were made at a very early date, the stars being
grouped in constellations according to a fancied resemblance to
some animate or inanimate form. The grouping, however, was
not the same as our own, which derives from the Babylonians.
Several examples of star diagrams survive on the ceilings of
temples and tombs and on the interior surfaces of coffin lids.
They were supposed to be of some use to the deceased in his
journeyings in the netherworld. They do not exhibit the differ-
ences one would expect, had they been intended for horoscopes
as some writers have suggested. Generally speaking, they con-
form to a standard pattern with comparatively minor variations.
The keeping of the calendar being in the hands of the priests,
special value was attached to the selection of the proper days
for religious observances. The sun and moon played a large part
in priestly cosmology and mythology. In the literature available
are references to the planets ('the stars who never rest5), and in
particular to Venus ('the morning star5 or 'the evening star5 
in early times probably differentiated); Jupiter ('the resplendent
star'); Saturn ('Horus, the Bull5); Mars (cthe red Horus'), and
possibly Mercury.
A map of the heavens, specially prepared to show the positions
of the principal stars as seen from Memphis about 3500 B.C.,
enables us to identify some of the star groups figured in the
ancient star maps. At that date the 'Great Bear' was con-
spicuous in rotating round the pole and was named the 'ox-leg*.