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Mid-Winter Solstice Celebration Holiday 2024

Hatshepsut temple

A fabulous week holiday in Luxor visiting many ancient sites culminating in celebrating the mid-winter solstice at the magnificent temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

8th - 2rd December:
Click here for details.

Egyptian Temple


Astronomical Alignment in the Temples of Egypt
by David Furlong

Part 4B
This is the fourth part of the article of Egyptian Temple Orientation. This part looks at stellar Orientations. The sites involved are:

Mut Temple
1. Amenhotep III Temple
2. Ramses II temple + Avenue of Sphinxes
Medinet Habu:
Ramses III Temple
Hathor Temple
Horus Temple

(This article runs over six pages. To download the whole article in pdf format please click here)

Stellar Alignments
For the reasons already given stellar alignments are much more difficult to determine. The following section highlights these problems and offers some suggestions and possibilities on how the Ancient Egyptians might have used the stars in the setting out of their temples.

This part looks at the Luxor temple of Amenhotep III and Ramses II

Amenhotep III Temple - Luxor (Plan 7)
The next temple that forms part of this study is the cult temple of the goddess Mut in Luxor. A Middle kingdom temple originally stood on this site but the temple was substantially rebuilt by Amenhotep III. Known to the Egyptians as Ipet-Resyt and to us as the Luxor temple it was extensively surveyed by Schwaller de Lubitz in 1937 who suggested many subtle aspects woven into its design, including that of precession, for a later king, Ramses II, added an extension to the temple on a slightly different azimuth, making this temple almost unique.

The calculated main temple axis of Amenhotep III is 33º - 44’; which agrees with the SB findings. The Ramses additions are aligned with an avenue of sphinxes which runs directly through to the Karnak temple, more than 2.8 km away. Effectively this extension skews the axis of the temple by about 11° to a new azimuth of 44º - 36’. The SB study shows this at 42.5º. On these azimuths both the temple and sphinx avenue could only be aligned to the stars.

Unfortunately in the case of Amenhotep’s temple there are no 1st magnitude stars, or principle constellations that fit construction dates, whether looking towards the north or south. De Lubitz suggested that orientation was set on the rising of Vega. For this to have worked the temple construction would need to have been dated back to around 3600 bc, a very improbable date. The best that can be offered, by way of astronomical orientation, is the Southern-Cross that broadly fits the southern azimuth but this would have been too high in the sky to produce an exact alignment. Despite de Lubitz assertions, one is forced to the conclusion that the stars were not a principal factor in the alignment of this temple; rather it was the association to the Nile that established its orientation, for the river is both close and runs parallel to the axis of the temple. Naturally we cannot be certain that this was the case in Amenhotep’s time but it does offer the most plausible explanation.

Luxor Temple
Plan 7 (From Google Earth Mapping Service/image©2007 DigitalGlobe)
The alignment for the sanctuary and Amenhotep III part of the Luxor temple can be clearly shown. The only possible alignment would be towards the south to the stars of the Southern Cross but this is not very convincing.

The change of axis for Ramses II temple is shown together with the link with the Sphinx Avenue. This does align with the star Vega. However it is also aligned to the sanctuary of Amun in the Karnak temple. Without clear textual evidence it is impossible to say what the intentions of the original architect might have been in this alignment.

Ramses II Temple and the Avenue of the Sphinxes (Plan 8)
We can now turn to Ramses II temple and the avenue of sphinxes leading to the Karnak temple. On an azimuth 44 º – 36’ the rising of the 1st magnitude star Vega very neatly fits the assumed construction date around 1290 bc. The avenue of sphinxes, as has been stated, runs in a straight line from the entrance of the Ramses II temple to the south-west corner of the boundary wall of the Karnak temple, where it joins a secondary avenue of sphinxes from the Mut temple.

At first glance the sighting to Vega suggests this had to be a primary element in the alignment of the avenue. However, by hypothetically projecting the avenue a little further, one finds that it is exactly aligned to the main sanctuary of Amun-Ra at the heart of the Karnak complex. Even in Ramses’ time there would be no direct line of the sight, but a mythic bow shot from the sanctuary roof in Karnak, would exactly follow the avenue of sphinxes, through the entrance gateway of Ramses temple to the middle of the its far end. This alignment could easily have been established through simple surveying techniques and may therefore have nothing to do with star alignments.

Here again one faced with another level to the problem in assessing star alignments. What takes precedence? Was the alignment to Vega a fortuitous co-incidence or was it deliberate? These are insuperable questions and may never be satisfactorily answered, even if it is possible to establish the precise date when the avenue that linked the two temples was first laid down.

Luxor Temple 2
Plan 8 (From Google Earth Mapping Service/image©2007 DigitalGlobe)
The alignment of the Ramses II part of the Luxor temple connected with the Avenue of Sphinxes is clearly apparent.

Other Stellar Orientated Sites:
Ramses III temple - Medinet Habu
Mut Temple Kernak
Hathor Temple Denderah
Horus Temple Edfu

Computer Programmes
Astronomy Programmes
Starry Night Complete Space and Astronomy Park Deluxe Edition 6
Red Shift Deluxe Edition 5.1
StarCalc ver 5.73
MyStars ver 2.7

Google Earth Plus ver 3.0.0762

Azimuth Calculator

Plans of the different Temple sites taken from Google Earth mapping Programme.

For further information please write to: David Furlong
Myrtles, Como Road, Malvern Worcs WR14 2TH
or phone 01684-569105 or 07779789047                        
Email: David Furlong

David Furlong
David has been taking groups to Egypt for more than 15 years


Ramses II statue
A statue of Ramses II at the Luxor temple.

Amenhotep III
A statues of Amenhotep III the builder of the Luxor temple. This statue is now in the Luxor Museum


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