Fertility scenes in Rock Art

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Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rock Art

Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.

The fertility ritual depicted in the rock art, presented here, is influenced by the tale of Osiris and Isis from Egyptian mythology. Symbolically, the rock art scene reenacts sexual act as reproductive processes in men, animals, and the earth. Spreading semen over land or water ceremony was 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 the power to affect the seasons. The fertility season, in the Negev Desert,  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).

The Egyptian Osiris Myth

The Egyptian myth tells that Osiris was killed by his brother Set who fancied the throne. Set chopped Osiris into fourteen pieces and threw them into the Nile River. Isis, Osiris’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 resurrection, Osiris became a symbol of the god of rebirth and regeneration. His death symbolized the annual drought in Egypt, while his rebirth with the Nile River flooding signified the agricultural magic of the country. 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 ancient Egyptians mapped the stars in different seasons and Osiris and Isis have been represented by  Orion and Canis Major constellations, as shown in Fig2. The Negev Desert rock art depicts an ibex followed by a dog representing the constellations Orion and Canis Major that announced by their arrival 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. The rock art, on the right, shows the ibex and the dog, symbolically representing the Orion and Canis Major constellations.

The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rock Art

Fig.4 depicts the fertility ritual reenacting the Egyptian myth of Isis reviving Osiris.   It visually records sexual attributes symbolizing land fertility in concert with the appearance of the ibex and the dog (Osiris and Isis) constellations (Orion and Canis Major) in the fertile season.  In this scene, the dog symbolically entices the ibex by sniffing him emulating the action of Isis reviving Osiris. The ibex’s shining horns indicate such emotions. During this illuminating moment, the ibex ejects a spray of semen. Notice the ibex phallus and the “wet” patch underneath. The engraved dots and patches over them symbolize the formation of rainstorms and clouds, which are symbols of the onset of winter, the fertility season.

rock art research news. fertility scene rock art negev desert
Fig.4 The sniffing dog scenes. The ibex and the dog represent the constellations of Orion and Canis Major, Negev Desert Rock Art.

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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