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July 11, 2007


Zodiac Here it is, the famous ceiling of the zodiac at the Temple of Denderah, north of Luxor (in black). Except it isn't. The real ceiling was hacked out of this space in the early part of the 19th century because of its extreme rarity: there are few (I'm told none, but I'd want to check) examples of the zodiac sky in Egyptian antiquity, and this is a dense and beautiful one. How it was taken from here is another ugly story from the Age of Explorers, and it is one of five objects that Hawass has asked to borrow from Western museums for the opening of a new museum in Cairo in 2012. The Louvre is considering the request, but everyone knows that Hawass really wants it back permanently. The original, in the Louvre, is not black; it has been cleaned (the replica here is badly done, and mimics the smoke that once covered the walls), and makes no mention of how it got there. Which is true for most of its Egyptian collection. Denderah Temple, by the way, is immense. This is a tiny room on its rooftop dedicated to Osiris. But the temple is massive and a work of great majesty. The ceiling in its main, pillared hippostyle hall is 54 feet high. (photo copyright: sharon waxman)