As we already explained, a typical ancient Egyptian zodiac is an astronomical representation of the whole year containing the main date. Therefore, it is essential to clarify when the beginning of the year was assumed to take place. Nowadays, the new year starts on January 1st, but in old times there were many different conventions concerning the beginning of the year. For example, year could start in March, September (what was very common in the middle ages) or another month. Consequently, we have to answer the question, when in the ancient Egyptian tradition the new year was beginning?
In order to tackle this problem we need to examine the structure of the available to us Egyptian zodiacs. On most of them, it appears that the beginning of the year was taking place in September. Let us consider first the rectangular zodiacs, i.e. the Long Denderah, Big and Small Esna zodiacs. For example, on the Small Esna zodiac (see Figure 2.18) the constellations and planets are shown in a form of a one long procession starting in Virgo. Although the beginning of the zodiac was destroyed, from the remaining parts we can deduct that it was Virgo, i.e. the new year was taking place in
September. In the case of the Long Denderah (see Figure 2.8) and Big Esna (see Figure 2.16) zodiacs, this situation is more complicated. Each of these zodiacs is divided into two parts, for each one of them we have two possible variants for the starting point of the procession, and consequently, for the beginning of the year. On the Long zodiac the procession begins either in Leo or Aquarius, but taking into account that additional Virgo is a part of Leo symbol (see subsection 5.1.5), the beginning of the year could also take place in Virgo. On the Big Esna zodiac the first constellation could be either Virgo, Leo or Pisces (see Figure 2.16). In summary, we can conclude that the first constellation on these rectangular zodiac was most probably Virgo. In other words, according to these zodiacs, the Egyptian year began in September. This conclusion does not contradicts the information provided by other zodiacs, except possibly the Athribis zodiacs (we will discuss this case later in Chapter 8).
It turns out that our conjecture about the beginning of the Egyptian year in September, which was made purely based on the evidence from the zodiacs, agrees with the particularities of the Egyptian climate. It was pointed out by N.A. Morozov that periodic Nile floods, which culminate in September, are related to the beginning of the new agricultural season, so from this point of view the choice of September as the beginning of the new year was natural in Egypt.53
Consequently, during the Egyptian year the equinoxes and solstices were appearing in the following order:
1. Autumn Equinox in September (at the beginning of the new year);
2. Winter Solstice in December;
3. Spring Equinox in March;
4. Summer Solstice in June (at the end of the year).
In our computation, we didn't assume as a requirement that the Egyptian year began in September. In fact all possibilities were taken into account and the information provided by the partial horoscopes was verified for all considered variants. Nevertheless, in all the cases, with the only exception of the Athribis zodiacs, we've obtain a confirmation that indeed the Egyptian year started in September.
Method of Astronomical Determination of the Dates Encoded in Egyptian Zodiacs
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