WTF Fun Fact 13423 – Egyptian New Year

Ancient Egyptian New Year took place right after the summer solstice. But it’s all because of the stars.

How did the ancient Egyptian New Year work?

In ancient Egypt, a star took center stage in the night sky right after the summer solstice. Not just any star, but Sirius, the brightest in our galaxy. Its annual appearance sparked a series of critical events. The Nile River would flood, replenishing the arid land with fresh, fertile soil. An agricultural resurgence followed, as did the beginning of a new year in the Egyptian calendar. That’s why Sirius was also referred to as the “Nile Star.”

New beginnings

So, what was the connection between the summer solstice, Sirius, and the Nile’s annual flooding? Each event seemed to occur in a synchronized manner. The solstice, marking the longest day of the year, was like the opening act. It was the signal, the green light, that Sirius was about to make its grand appearance.

Soon after the solstice, just as the Earth began its tilt away from the sun, Sirius would rise above the eastern horizon. The Egyptians saw this as no coincidence. In their view, Sirius had a profound influence on the Earth. It controlled the ebbs and flows of the mighty Nile.

In essence, the Egyptians saw the world around them as a mirror of the cosmos. Everything was interconnected. The rise of Sirius, the flooding of the Nile, the abundance of crops – these were not isolated events but part of a grand, divine plan. They believed Sirius triggered the Nile flood. The life-bringing waters were a celestial gift, ushering in a season of fertility and growth.

Following the cosmos

With the rise of Sirius linked to such an essential natural event, it’s no surprise the Egyptians incorporated it into their calendar. The Egyptian New Year was not only a temporal marker but a time of celebration, renewal, and anticipation for the bountiful harvest that lay ahead.

The fascinating link between Sirius, the summer solstice, and the flooding of the Nile demonstrates the Egyptians’ profound understanding of astronomy and its influence on their environment. They recognized patterns, made predictions, and used this knowledge to their advantage.

And this is yet another reminder that calendars do not arbitrarily mark time but are instead rooted in the significant events of their world.

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WTF Fun Fact 12700 – Dr. “Mummy” Pettigrew

During England’s Victorian period, people were obsessed with ancient Egypt. But this fascination led them to plunder pyramids, disturb the dead, and desecrate sacred artifacts. Of course, they didn’t see it this way, they were just having a good time.

A surgeon and Egyptologist (back in the days when you could be both), Thomas Pettigrew, took advantage of this “Egyptomania” to aid in his research on mummies.

According to Tasha Dobbin-Bennett on behalf of Yale’s Peabody Museum:

“…During the spring and summer of 1833, Pettigrew conducted his research for this manuscript while leading three mummy “unwrapping” parties, where members of the British social elite would gather to observe the unwrapping of ancient Egyptian mummies. Although no longer under the employ of the Duke of Sussex, Pettigrew effectively parlayed his introduction to the social elite into patronage, riding on the wave of Egyptomania sweeping the British Isles. While the majority of these private parties were produced for entertainment value alone, Pettigrew utilized these events as another line of investigation complementing his education and access to extensive libraries. The material included within the manuscript testifies to his detailed and serious methodology, particularly in the chapters concerning the mummy as a drug, the embalming procedure and paraphernalia, and the comparison of classical authors with his research. Ten illustrated plates by the satirist George Cruikshank, the result of careful observation, complement the extensive text.”

Tomb-raiding was so common that Egyptian mummies could be procured by wealthy people for just about any purpose.

Apparently, mummy unwrapping parties sometimes involved the hosts giving away the objects people were buried with as party favors. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Mummy-Mania” – Yale Peabody Museum