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Fertility scenes in Rock Art

rock art archaeology news. rock art sniffing dog fertility ritual

Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rock Art

Many myths in the ancient world promoted fertility recorded also in rock art, the earliest form of documentation. The fertility rituals, in the Negev Desert, influenced by the myth of the Egyptian god Osiris. They re-enacted, symbolically, sexual acts as reproductive processes of man, animals, and land. Spreading semen over land or water was a ceremonial act practiced in ancient Egypt to promote land fertility.

It was common in the ancient world to describe nature forces by their astronomical symbol and attribute them with the power to change the seasons. The fertility season coincided with the appearance of the winter constellations. These include the ibex and the dog that represented the winter constellations of Orion (the ibex) and Canis Major (the dog).

Osiris Myth

The Egyptian myth tells that Osiris killed by his brother Set who fancied the throne. Set chopped Osiris into fourteen pieces and threw them into the Nile River. Isis, Osiri’s wife, wandered the world and assembled Osiris’  body, and inserted his semen into her thus giving birth to Horus. The Egyptian Pyramid Texts state it unequivocally: “Your sister Isis comes to you [Osiris] rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues into her….”.

With his revival, Osiris symbolized the resurrection and re-generation god. His death represented the yearly drought, while his miraculous rebirth represented the Nile River flooding that yielded the agriculture magic in Egypt. To assure fertility Pharaoh performed a ceremony, which involved masturbating at the riverbank spreading his semen throughout the Nile River’s waters fertilizing the river banks.

Osiris and Isis Celestial gods

The ancients Egyptians mapped the stars in different seasons and Osiris and Isis have been clearly represented by  Orion and Canis Major constellations, as shown in Fig2. In the Negev Desert rock art, they portrayed as an ibex followed by a dog a symbolic sky view of Orion and Canis Major constellation arrival announcing the fertile season.

orion constealltion as ibex rock art

Fig.2 Osiris and Isis symbols derived from the constellations of Orion and Canis Major. The three-star above the boat identifies the Orion constellation. In the middle scene the constellation map of Orion and Canis Major. On the right, a rock art, the ibex and the dog, symbolically represent the Orion and Canis Major constellations.

The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rock Art

The rock art presented, Fig.4, here illustrates the fertility ritual recreating the Egyptian myth of Isis reviving Osiris. It visually records sexual attributes symbolizing land fertility in concert with the ibex and the dog (Osiris and Isis) constellations (Orion and Canis Major) appearance in the fertile season.  In this scene, the dog symbolically entices the ibex by sniffing him emulating Isis reviving Osiris.  As a result, the ibex ejects a spray of semen, notice the ibex phallus, and the “wet” patch underneath. Above them, you can see the formation of rainstorms and clouds illustrated by the engraved patches and dots.

rock art research news. fertility scene rock art negev desert

Fig.4 The sniffing dog scenes. The ibex and the dog representing the constellations Orion and Canis Major, Negev Desert Rock Art.

More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.

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Bibliography

Ardakani   ( 2016)  An Evaluation of the Historical Importance of Fertility and Its Reflection in Ancient Mythology
BOTICA       (2013)     Weather, Agriculture, and religion in the Ancient Near East and in the Old Testament 

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