The dendera light is a motif in the Hathor temple at Dendera in Egypt. It depicts the Egyptian creation myth, and the text surrounding the pieces confirm this. The motif became famous when the History Channel claimed it depicts an ancient light bulb, something that the text around the motif disproves.
The temple contains several reliefs depicting Harsomtus, in the form of a snake, emerging from a lotus flower which is usually attached to the bow of a barge. The so-called dendera light is a variation of this motif, showing Harsomtus in an oval container called hn, which might represent the womb of Nut. Sometimes a djed pillar supports the snake or the container. A closely related motif is "god resting on the lotus flower".
Depictions and text
Each of the three objects consists of two reliefs. One half (a) of each pair is in south crypt 1-C (crypte 4), the other half (b) in room G (chambre V) of the temple.
(Crypt 1-C, south wall)
|Speaking the words of Harsomtus, the great God, who dwells in Dendera, who is in the arms of the first in the night-barge, sublime snake, whos Chentj-statue carries Heh, whos crew carries in holiness his perfection, whos Ba caused Hathor to appear in the sky, whos figure is revered by his followers, who is unique, encircled by his forehead-snake, with countless names on the top of Chui-en-hesen, the symbol of power of Re in the land of Atum (Dendera), the father of the Gods, who created everything.
Gold his metal, height: four handbreadths
|Speaking the words of harsomtus, the great God, who dwells in Dendera, the living Ba in the lotus flower of the day-barge, whos perfection is carried by the two arms of the djed-pillar as his Seschemu-image, while the Kas on their knees bend their arms.
Gold and all precious stones, height: three handbreadths
|Speaking the words of harsomtus, the great God, who dwells in Dendera, who emerges out of the lotus flower as a living Ba, whos completeness is elevated by the Kematju-images of his Ka, whos Seschemu-image is revered by the crew of the day-barge, whos body is carried by the djed-pillar, underneath his Seschemu-image is the Primal and whos majesty is carried by the companions of his Ka.
Gold, height: one cubit
|Harsomtus in the hn-container of the night-barge that contains four figures. The figure of heh is in front of him, whereas this flower is behind him, the water beneath him.
Gold his metal, height: four handbreadths.
|Harsomtus on his barge
Gold and all precious stones, height: three handbreadths
|Harsomtus of Upper- and Lower Egypt, the Sata-snake, that emerges from the flower, which contains the hn-container, who is flanked by four figures with human faces, under his head the figure of Heh on the Serech on the bow of his barge. The Juf-monkey with the face of a toad, armed with knives, is in front of him, as are the two figures that carry the front part of this flower.|
In contrast to the mainstream interpretation, a fringe theory proposes that the reliefs depict Ancient Egyptian technology, based on comparison to similar modern devices (such as a Cathode-ray tube, Geissler tubes, Crookes tubes, and arc lamps). J. N. Lockyer's passing reference to a colleague's humorous suggestion that electric lamps would explain the absence of lampblack deposits in the tombs has sometimes been forwarded as an argument supporting this particular interpretation (another argument being made is the use of a system of reflective mirrors). Proponents of this interpretation have also used a text referring to "high poles covered with copper plates" to argue this, but Bolko Stern has written in detail explaining why the copper-covered tops of poles (which were lower than the associated pylons) do not relate to electricity or lightning, pointing out that no evidence of anything used to manipulate electricity had been found in Egypt and that this was a magical and not a technical installation.
Archaeologist and debunker Kenneth Feder argued that if ancient Egyptians really had such advanced technology, some light bulb remains (glass shards, metal sockets, filaments...) should have been discovered during archaeological excavations. By applying Occam's razor, he instead highlighted the feasibility of the aforementioned reflective mirrors system, and also that the notion of adding salt to torches to minimize lampblack was well known by ancient Egyptians.
- "Debunking the Dendera "Light Bulb"". 3 October 2019.
- "Awful Archaeology Ep. 5: The Dendera Light". YouTube.
- "Dendera Temple Crypt Archived 2010-04-25 at the Wayback Machine". iafrica.com.
- Wolfgang Waitkus, Die Texte in den unteren Krypten des Hathortempels von Dendera: ihre Aussagen zur Funktion und Bedeutung dieser Räume, Mainz 1997 ISBN 3-8053-2322-0 (tr., The texts in the lower crypts of the Hathor temples of Dendera: their statements for the function and meaning of these areas)
- Waitkus, Wolfgang (2002). "Die Geburt des Harsomtus aus der Blüte Zur Bedeutung und Funktion einiger Kultgegenstände des Tempels von Dendera". Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur. 30: 373–394. JSTOR 25152877.
- Press, The MIT (15 May 1973). The Dawn of Astronomy | The MIT Press. mitpress.mit.edu. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262120142. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
- Bruno Kolbe, Francis ed Legge, Joseph Skellon, tr., "An Introduction to Electricity". Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1908. 429 pages. Page 391. (cf., "[...] high poles covered with copper plates and with gilded tops were erected 'to break the stones coming from on high'. J. Dümichen, Baugeschichte des Dendera-Tempels, Strassburg, 1877")
- Stern, Bolko (1998) . Ägyptische Kulturgeschichte. Reprint-Verlag-Leipzig. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-3826219085.
- Feder, Kenneth H. (2014). Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-803507-4., pp.225–7
- The Dendera Reliefs, Catchpenny Mysteries.
- Frank Dörnenburg, Electric lights in Egypt?. 2004.
- Mariette, Auguste (1870) - Dendérah: description générale du grand temple de cette ville (II: 48, 49; III: 44, 45)