Fertility scenes in Rock Art

rock art sniffing dog fertility ritual

Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rock Art

The lack of water in the desert facilitated its dwellers to promote fertility rituals, see Sacred Marriage, imitating nature rejuvenation where earth and water played a major role. In our region, the Negev Desert they adopted from Egyptian myths, especially from the role of Osiris the Egyptian god of the underworld, Nile flood, and fertility. The fertility rites 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 the ancient world to promote land fertility. The rock art presented here illustrates the Egyptian ritual incorporating the custom and the myth.

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. Osiris became the resurrection and regeneration 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.

Fig.2 Osiris and Isis the derived from the constellations of Orion and Canis Major. The three star above the boat identifies the Orion constellation.

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. The constellations rise in wintertime announced the fertile season arrival in Negev Desert that prompted this ritual. In Egypt’s Pyramid Texts it is written: “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….”.

The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rock Art

Dogs navigate the world via their sensitive nose glands and their action of sniffing gathers information. Their sensitive nose can even detect ovulation, a state of fertility, in animals and people. Even today, Australian farmers using the dog’s ability to detect ovulating cows.

fertlity scenes negev desert rock art

Fig.4 The Sniffing dog scene, the ibex and the dog, Negev Desert Rock Art.

Fig4 illustrates the sniffing dog scene representing, in the Negev Desert, the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis. The myth crossed from Egypt to Negev Desert, therefore, the symbols of Osiris and Isis changed to the widespread representation of an ibex followed by a dog. In this scene, the dog symbolically entices the ibex to ejaculate by sniffing it.  As a result, the ibex ejects a spray of semen, notice the ibex phallus and the semen patch underneath. Above them, you can see the formation of rainstorms and clouds as illustrated by the patches and dots radiating the fertility symbols.

This engraving visually records an imaginative ritual that assures land fertility in concert with the stars’ appearance above. The dog behavior adaptation with the Egyptian myth and the physical appearance of Osiris (Orion) and Isis (Canis Major) in the winter sky intensified the earthly drama made it real and imaginable.

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

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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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