Ibex Hunt Sun Journey

mythological ibex hunt negev desert rock art

The Ibex that stole the Sun.

Deciphering rock art from Israel, isrelrockart.com.

According to ancient Central Asian belief, the Sun was created by the eruption of a volcanic fireball originating deep within the earth. The sun’s home was believed to be in the underworld. Every day, the sun began its journey from the underworld, returning to its home at the end of the day. 

Ancient myths describe the journey of the sun, including one titled “The ibex who stole the sun” In this myth, the sun’s journey is portrayed as a hunt. According to the myth, the ibex carried the sun from the underworld until dusk. It was then confronted by a hunter, symbolizing the underworld god, who fulfills his daily duties and brings the sun back to its home. In his book, Myth and Symbols (1991), A. Golan captures the essence of the myth:  “A deer, an earthly creature, stole the sun maiden from the underworld and escaped with her to the sky; the furious lord of the underworld, the hunter, chased the deer, struck him down and got his sun maiden back.”

The ibex hunting scene appears frequently in the rock art of the Negev Desert and Asia. The shape of the sun in these scenes varies; it may appear as a circle, a dot, or a cross, as illustrated in Fig.1.

rock art mythological scenes ibex carries the sun
Fig. 1 Examples, from Negev Desert Rock art, illustrate the Ibex carries the sun. The sun is represented by a circle or as a cross.

The hunt myth rock art

Figure 2 illustrates the sun’s hunt at dusk, the most vulnerable time of day. The myth symbols include the Hunter, the Sun, the Ibex, and sometimes dogs who serve as the helpers of the underworld god. The same myth is illustrated by two rock art scenes from the Negev Desert.

The left scene shows a struggle between an ibex and a hunter. During the hunt, a hunter with a beak, a symbol of a god, chased and caught the ibex by its horns. By shaking the ibex horns, the sun is released and returned home safely to the underworld, and daily harmony is maintained.

sun myth the ibex hunt negev desert rock art
Fig.2 The sun myth the ibex hunt Negev desert rock art. The sun is the circle between the ibex horns.

The right side depicts a hunting scene with dogs. Four symbols are depicted in it, namely the hunter, the ibex with the sun between its horns, the two dogs, and the underworld fire beneath the ibex. Wearing a crown, the hunter represents the underworld god. With the assistance of his dogs, he retrieves the sun, which is seen as a full circle between the horns of the ibex.

It is evident from the artistic similarities in both illustrations that the story is the same. The appearance of the sun and the behavior of the ibex provide two key clues. First, the ibex trapped between the hunter and the dogs appears calm and not alarmed, as one might expect from a wild animal. The animal stares calmly at the hunter and even surrenders to him with respect. Second, with the hunter and the dog’s diagonal postures, the artist shows his ability to convey movement or fear. Therefore, the behavior of the ibex in these illustrations suggests an imaginary event. This hunt transcends the essence of an earthly hunt, elevating it to mythological status.

Conclusion

The myth of the Sun hunt spread throughout the ancient world, a similar concept was found in Egypt (see Sun Journey), Asia, and European mythology. In this myth, the cyclical order of the sun is explained, a complex process that was difficult to understand in ancient times. The myth suggests that mysterious forces in nature govern the behavior of the sun. These forces ensure the orderly behavior of the Sun as well as maintain the daily order of the universe.

Biblography

Golan A. (1991)             Myth and Symbol
Kristiansen K. (2018)   The winged triad in Bronze Age symbolism: birds and their feet
Lahelma A,                     The Circumpolar Context of the Sun Ship’ Motif in South Scandinavian Rock Art
Salimbeti A. (2014)      The Greek Age of Bronze Ship

 

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