The Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Megalithic Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Dendera, “the city of the goddess”, is located on the west bank of the Nile, about 4 km north of Qena and 615 km from Cairo,  best known for the presence of the famous temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor.

The temple complex of Dendera, whose temple of Hathor is among the best-preserved temples in Egypt, covers an area of approximately 40,000 m2 and is entirely bordered by a brick wall.

The buildings currently visible date back to the Ptolemaic period with extensions during the Roman period (Emperor Tiberius) but foundations of older buildings dating back to the reign of Cheops (4th dynasty) have been found.

The whole temple is a marvel to explore. Each of the rooms is tightly decorated, and the front room at the main entrance is flanked by 24 columns, while the ceiling in the Great Vestibule is a tribute to Nut, the Egyptian Goddess of the Sky.

Megalithic columns at Dendera temple

Egyptian goddess Nut, Dendera Hathor Temple ceiling



The Dendera Light Bulb

Dendera light bulbs Egypt

This temple became famous for the enigmas surrounding two depictions that were found in its rooms: the lamps or light bulbs and the zodiac.

The so-called Dendera lamps are bas-reliefs with hieroglyphics discovered by the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette in 1857.

After cleaning up the sand, the large crypts found under the temple showed rooms with walls covered with carved stone slabs. The rooms would belong to the first nucleus of the temple, dating back to the 15th century BCE, while the current construction that is superimposed on them is from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.

The carved plates refer to a decoration of the Ptolemaic phase. Some scholars have interpreted the representations as ancient incandescent lamps.

Among the bas-reliefs of the temple, there is also an experiment that is very similar to the modern procedure of electrolysis.

Egyptologists interpret the bas-reliefs as integrated symbology in Egyptian mythology: the primordial snake born from a lotus flower is a known Egyptian myth and the support is also a recurring symbol in Egyptian art, connected with Osiris and depicting his spine.

The representations have instead been interpreted by Joseph Norman Lockyer as ancient Crookes tubes, devices capable of emitting radiation (a device that was invented about ten years after the publication of Dendera’s drawings by its discoverer Auguste Mariette).

The stem of the lotus flower has been interpreted as an electric power cable; the support that represents part of the dorsal column of the god Osiris would instead be interpreted as an electric winding and snakes would represent the serpentines that are inside the Crookes tubes. Finally, a god holds two daggers in his hand, and this is interpreted as a danger signal that would be found precisely at the point where the X-rays come out of the Crookes tube.

Finally, the two Djeds, cult objects found in many Egyptian drawings and bas-reliefs but whose function is still uncertain and debated, combined with each of the (alleged) lamps, would perform the same function as our modern electrical insulators.

The Zodiac

Original Dendera Zodiac at Louvre, France
Original Dendera Zodiac. today on display at Louvre, France
Colored reconstruction of the Zodiac

At the top of the structure, there is a small temple that was used for rituals to greet the rising sun, as well as another antechamber, called the Chapel of Osiris.

Inside this chapel, one of the rooms holds a unique ceiling relief, known as the Dendera Zodiac. It is considered the only complete “map” of the ancient Egyptian sky. 

The Dendera Zodiac is a planisphere, that is a star map, a cartographic projection of the 12 constellations of the zodiac that form 36 decans of ten days each, and of the planets.

The decans are groups of first-magnitude stars used by the ancient Egyptian calendar, which was based on lunar cycles of 36 days and on the “rising” of the star Sothis (Sirius).

The sky itself is represented by a large disk supported by four celestial pillars in the form of women, among which are inserted spirits with the head of a hawk.

In the first circle, 36 spirits symbolize the 360 ​​days of the Egyptian year. In the innermost part the constellations and zodiac signs can be observed, some of which appear in many of their immediate iconographic forms (for example Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, and Capricorn) even if in different positions compared to the Greek and western-Arab conventions, while others have more purely Egyptian effigies: Aquarius is the god of the Nile Hapy bearing two vessels from which water flows.

Rogers noted the similarities with three surviving tablets of a Seleucid zodiac, both referable in turn to representations of the Mesopotamian border stele “kudurru”; Rogers concluded that Dendera’s Zodiac would be “a complete copy of the Mesopotamian zodiac”.

The Megalithic Structures Outside The Temple Of Hathor


The temple also displays a megalithic flooring consisting of huge blocks held together with metal clamps that can also be found throughout the megalithic structures of the ancient world, as well as megalithic stone wheels.

The flooring, in particular, resembles the one that can be seen outside the pyramids at the Giza Plateau, but also the one that formed the pavement of the temples at Puma Punku, Bolivia. To add to the enigma, the “softened” look on the megalithic blocks is quite puzzling.

Megalithic flooring
Megalithic Rose Granite Wheel
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