Ancient Egyptian Skies – Sydney Observatory

The Sydney Observatory is currently running tours to complement the new exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives. The tour runs for approximately one hour and takes place in the observatory’s planetarium. This review is going to be short purely because the tour was short and I want that to be the focus, not the entire observatory.

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The tour starts with a forty minute documentary on Ancient Egypt and mummification. It was a bit like the documentaries you watch in eighth grade ancient history – a lot of re-enactments and dramatic music. It was kitschy but I quite enjoyed it. I was glad to have the opportunity to brush up on my general knowledge of Egypt. As my friend Alice pointed out, the video also had a great connection to the exhibition at the Powerhouse. Both observe how medical advancements have increased knowledge of mummies and mummification. The video covered how DNA can be extracted from a mummy and what this evidence may reveal.

After the video, we were taken on a tour of the night sky in Ancient Egypt, around 1200 BCE. At various stages the video of the sky was paused and Egyptian mythology of the stars, sun, and moon was explained. This was accompanied by the corresponding hierogyphs. For example, we learnt how the milky way was imagined as a goddess who swallowed the sun during the night. The name of the goddess appeared in the centre of the screen in hierglyphs. This part of the tour went for around 15 minutes.

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Nut, Egyptian Goddess of the Sky (by Hans Bernhard – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https//commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6428319)

Ancient Egypt is a fascinating topic by default. I thought this tour added a new layer of interpretation – it is quite different to what has been done before. I would recommend you see the exhibition at the Powerhouse and then take this tour.

Speaking of the Powerhouse, watch this space early next week for a guest post on this exhibition!

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Astronomical Ceiling Relief from Dendera, Egypt (by Olaf Tausch – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15683822)

 

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