Bootes Seasons Rock Art
Bootes Seasons Marker
Rock art and its meaning. Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.
Like written documents, rock art serves as a guardian of ancient knowledge. When viewing ancient text and rock art together, they provide a pictorial representation of the beliefs, thoughts, and traditions of the past. We learn from examples of early astronomy that by examining the recurring portrayal of stars in rock art, we can infer the time of year. The rock art shown here is evidence that the inhabitants of the desert in ancient times utilized astronomy to determine the seasons.
The constellation Bootes gets its name from the Greek word for farmer or shepherd, reflecting its association with agriculture and livestock. This constellation is positioned behind Ursa Major and Ursa Minor as they rotate around the North Star and Bootes the shepherd follows them indefinitely, see Figure 1. The brightest star in Bootes, Arcturus, shines with a brilliant golden hue during spring and summer and is easily visible in the night sky.
Arcturus, the primary star of the constellation Bootes, played a significant role in the lives of ancient navigators and farmers. As a celestial beacon, its rise and setting marked important astronomical events and informed seasonal activities. The Spring Equinox is the time of the year when the sun is positioned directly above the equator and marks the beginning of spring, as indicated by the rising of Arcturus in the sky. Conversely, its setting signaled the Fall Equinox, the beginning of autumn.
The renowned ancient Greek poet Hesiod, who lived around 700 BC, recognized the importance of Arcturus in his poem Works and Days. He instructed farmers to keep track of the passage of time by counting sixty days from the summer solstice and observing the rise of Arcturus. This was a crucial part of agricultural life, as the knowledge of the seasons was necessary for planting, harvesting, and caring for livestock.
‘Now, when Zeus has brought to completion sixty more winter days after the sun has turned in his course, the star Arcturus, leaving behind the sacred stream of the ocean, first begins to rise and shine at the edges of the evening. After him, the treble-crying swallow, Pandion’s daughter, comes into the sight of men when spring is just at the beginning. Be there before her. Prune your vines’.
Thus, Arcturus was not just a celestial body but also a symbol of wisdom, tradition, and practicality for ancient civilizations. Its significance in their lives highlights the interconnectedness of astronomy, agriculture, and society, and the enduring influence of Arcturus as a celestial marker.
Bootes as Seasons Marker rock art
The Negev rock art in Figure 2 illustrates the utilization of astronomical knowledge through rock art. It showcases a repeating pattern of three similar figures arranged in a circular formation. These figures depict the Bootes constellation as it appears at various times of the year, recognizable by its kite-shaped appearance, the prominent star Arcturus located at its center, arms extended upwards, and a dagger hanging from its belt.
The figures in Fig. 2 of the Negev rock art illustrate the changing positions of the Bootes constellation throughout the seasons. In the spring, Bootes is depicted as rising, symbolizing its rejuvenation after its fall. During the summer, it stands upright, while in the autumn, it disappears from the sky as shown by its falling pose, which represents death. As Bootes is no longer visible in the winter, the ibex (see Ibex and Rock art), which is also depicted in the rock art, takes its place as a symbol of the current fertile season. This cycle continues until Bootes reappears in the spring and the cycle starts anew.
Such a depiction of Bootes in the Negev rock art is a vivid illustration of how ancient peoples utilized astronomical knowledge in their daily lives. The arrangement of the figures in a circle highlights the cyclical nature of the seasons and the agricultural year. It is also an example of how they were able to track time using the stars, with Arcturus serving as an important marker for the change of seasons. The rock art serves as a window into the beliefs, customs, and practices of these ancient peoples and helps us gain a better understanding of their relationship with the environment and the cosmos.
Bootes constellation played a significant role in the lives of ancient desert dwellers. As seen in the Negev rock art, they used astronomy to determine the seasons and the pose of the Bootes constellation indicated the changing seasons, from spring to autumn. The bright star Arcturus, located in the waist of the Bootes constellation, was easily recognizable and its rising and setting marked the Spring and Fall Equinoxes. The varying positions of the figures in the rock art depicted the changing seasons and the symbolism of death and revival.
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