Archaeoastronomy and Cultural Astronomy - the Astronomy of Skyscapes
Star phases and the naked-eye astronomy of the Pyramid Texts
Bernadette Brady
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
This paper considers the cultural role of star phases through the example of the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts which, it will be argued, contain descriptive naked-eye astronomy written in the language of religious mythology. In the first century C.E. Claudius Ptolemy (1993) defined the phases of the stars and showed how they contained two major forms of star movement. One of these was labelled by him as ‘Arising and Laying Hidden’ and described the phasing of the stars that undergo a period of invisibly in their annual cycle. The second movement he labelled ‘Curtailed Passage’ and described the stars that shift between rising and setting to being circumpolar in their seasonal movement. This presentation will focuses on the four distinct steps of the phase of curtailed passage (Brady 2015: 83). With these established the paper will demonstrate the parallels of these stages with that of the ascension myth of the king’s soul as described by the Pyramid Texts (Allen 2005). The presentation concludes by suggesting that an awareness of star phasing places the Pyramid Texts into the history of astronomy as the naked-eye astronomy they contain in their religious mythology represents some of the earliest known astronomical texts.

Allen, James P. 2005. The ancient Egyptian pyramid texts (Society of Biblical Literature: Atlanta).
Brady, Bernadette. 2015. 'Star phases: the naked-eye astronomy of the Old Kingdom pyramid text.' in Fabio Silva and Nick Campion (eds.), Skyscapes: The Role and Importance of the Sky in Archaeology (Oxbow: Oxford).
Ptolemy, Claudius. 1993. The phases of the fixed stars (The Golden Hind Press: Berkeley Springs, WV).

16:30 - 18:00
EX - C3 (150)