Fundamental Heritage: Astronomical Knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians

(ORDO NEWS) — The ancient Egyptians were famous for their knowledge of astronomy. What they saw in the sky formed the basis of their mythology and predetermined their religious structure. For example, the Sun was considered an ancient god who gave rise to peace and life.

Egyptian astronomers have left their followers with a fundamental legacy:

  • Two dimensions (firmament and sky ), which determined the evolution of astronomy and the daily life of civilization;
  • The annual calendar that we know and use today;
  • Dividing the day into two equal parts (day and night), 12 hours each.

In the ancient world, time became one of the first measurable quantities, which is explained by the necessity that arose in the course of the development of agriculture. Scientists believe that the calendar of the ancient Egyptians was based on observations of the annual solar cycle and supported by agricultural experience (they knew exactly when to sow and when to reap).

The ancient Egyptians discovered a connection between terrestrial and celestial phenomena, which led to the division of time into repeating periods associated with the phases of the moon and the floods of the Nile. Egyptian astronomers predicted floods by observing the night sky, which is still incredible to this day!

The Egyptians associated the annual cycle with religious cycles of death and resurrection, the daily cycle with the movement of the Sun from east to west, and had experience in predicting the weather.

Fundamental Heritage Astronomical Knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians 2

Since the decimal system was adopted in Egypt, the Egyptians had a week for 10 days, and there were 36 weeks in total in a year. The length of the months that the Egyptians associated with their own lunar calendar was 30 days, three weeks each.

The Egyptians combined the months into three seasons, each of which lasted four months; only 360 days, to which the Egyptians added five more days to complete the cycle of 365 days (they came to this by observing the sun.

The calendar year ended, but the solar cycle did not). However, the year still lacked a quarter of a day to complete the actual solar year, leading to a huge gap over time.

The “vague” year of the Egyptians, which consisted of 365 days, persisted in astronomical practice until accurate measurements led to its correction and replacement in common use by the Julian year.

This suggests that Arab and European astronomers, making the most important discoveries of that time, used the invention of the ancient Egyptians.

Fundamental Heritage Astronomical Knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians 3

Dividing a day into 24 hours is directly related to the ancient Egyptian calendar structure. The Egyptians invented the sundial, and then the water clock, which measured time with the highest accuracy regardless of the path of the stars.

There is no doubt that astronomy is one of those areas of science where the Egyptians not only excelled, but were centuries ahead of their own era.


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