Extracts from a new book,
"The Pyramid Builder's Handbook"
Derek K Hitchins©
Full copyright and intellectual property rights retained
Ancient Egyptian constellations appear to have been quite different from ours today. We take our present constellations from ancient Greece, although the Chinese have different constellations even today.
The picture shows a relatively early view of the heavens, Egyptian style. The bull is not Taurus, but instead is believed to comprise circumpolar stars, like our present day Ursa Major / Ursa Minor.
Other animals look familiar, too. There is an eagle, but its not Aquila, and a lion, but the stars around the lion are like no constellations we see today - it's not Leo. It seems that the idea was to be artistic on such charts, rather than to represent what was seen in the sky.
You can also see 2 crocodiles in the picture, although we have no crocodile constellations today, and a man although the man has a single star not so much on his belt, more on his stomach.
This second view of the constellations is taken from the so-called Denderah Zodiac, to be found in the Louvre, Paris. The Temple of Hathor at Denderah was built in the Ptolemaic Period, and so reflects both Greek and Roman influences. You can see a variety of animal shapes, some corresponding to today's Zodiac, others looking decidedly strange. The curators of the museum have overwritten the scene, originally situated in the roof of the Denderah Temple, with their interpretation of zodiac signs. Note at left a seated cow, representing the Goddes Hathor, associated with the star Sirius.
Clearly, the ancient Egyptian view of the constellations was changed by their association in later times with outside influences. But there can be little doubt that in earlier times, and certainly about the time of the building of the pyramids, their perception of what was in the the heavens was quite different from ours today.
This view of the early Egyptian constellations rather knocks on the head suggestions that the Sphinx, which faces east, must have been built around 10,500BC to look at the eastern sky where the zodiac constellation Leo rose at that time. That does not work too well unless there was a zodiac constellation of Leo at the time, which appears highly unlikely. The suggestion appears to be yet another anachronism, looking at the ancient world through modern eyes, instead of finding out what they knew and how they perceived their environment at the time.