An international team of archaeologists has restored a series of rare ceiling paintings showing astrological signs of the Zodiac in an ancient Egyptian temple.
The researchers, from the University of Tuebingen, in Germany, and from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, were delighted after they successfully restored and recoloured the images found at the Temple of Esna, near the Egyptian capital Cairo.
Dedicated to the ram-headed god Khnum, the temple was commissioned during the reign of King Tuthmosis III during the 18th Dynasty, between 1479 and 1425 BC.
However, it was only completed during the Ptolemaic period and the Roman period between 40 and 250 AD.
The ancient building stunned archaeologists after it yielded a number of paintings depicting the zodiac, in addition to the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.
Stars and constellations used in ancient times to measure time were also engraved in the paintings.
The restoration furthermore revealed images of snakes, crocodiles and various beasts such as a snake with a ram’s head and a bird with a crocodile’s head, the tail of a snake and four wings.
The restoration process also unearthed some previously unknown inscriptions, the experts said.
They explained that the temple’s colours had been preserved by a layer of dirt and soot for nearly 2,000 years.
The ceiling paintings and inscriptions, however, were barely recognisable for centuries because of a lack of maintenance, according to the researchers.
Project Head and University of Tuebingen Professor Christian Leitz said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “Representations of the zodiac are very rare in Egyptian temples.
“The zodiac itself is part of Babylonian astronomy and does not appear in Egypt until Ptolemaic times.”
Scientists believe that the zodiac signs and their related constellations gained popularity in Egypt after they were introduced by the Greeks.
University of Tuebingen researcher Dr Daniel von Recklinghausen said: “The zodiac was used to decorate private tombs and sarcophagi and was of great importance in astrological texts, such as horoscopes found inscribed on pottery sherds.
“However, it is rare in temple decoration: apart from Esna, there are only two completely preserved versions left, both from Dendera.”
The restoration work, which has been underway for five years, is sponsored by the American Research Center in Egypt, the Ancient Egypt Foundation and the Gerda Henkel Foundation.