The Dendera Temple complex, which contains the Temple of Hathor, is one of the best-preserved temples, if not the best-preserved one, in all of Upper Egypt. Hathor is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Hathor is commonly depicted as a cow goddess with horns in which is set a sun disk. The whole complex covers some 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a hefty mud brick wall. The present building dates back to the times of the Ptolemaic dynasty and was completed by the Roman emperor Tiberius, but it rests on the foundations of earlier buildings dating back at least as far as Khufu (known as the Great Pyramid builder Cheops, the second Pharaoh of the 4th dynasty.
Dendera Zodiac (Louvre Museum)
The sculptured Dendera zodiac is a widely known Egyptian bas-relief from the ceiling of the pronaos (or portico) of a chapel dedicated to Osiris in the Hathor temple at Dendera, where the mysteries of the resurrection of the god Osiris were celebrated. This chapel was begun in the late Ptolemaic period ; its pronaos was added by the emperor Tiberius. This led Jean-François Champollion to date the relief correctly to the Greco-Roman period.
The zodiac is a planisphere or map of the stars on a plane projection, showing the 12 constellations of the zodiacal band forming 36 decans of ten days each, and the planets. These decans are groups of first-magnitude stars. These were used in the ancient Egyptian calendar, which was based on lunar cycles of around 30 days and on the heliacal rising of the star Sirius. The constellations shown inside the circle include the signs of the zodiac, most of which are represented almost as they are today. Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, and Capricorn, for example, are easily recognizable, whereas others correspond to a more Egyptian iconography: Aquarius is represented as Hapy, the god of the Nile flood, pouring water from two vases.
The Zodiac of Dendera was transported to France in 1821 with the permission of Egyptian ruler Mohamed Ali Pasha. It is one of the most famous Egyptian monuments preserved in France.