The Ibex that stole the Sun.
Copyright © 2016 by Yehuda Rotblum
According to a belief in Central Asia, from the Neolithic time, a volcanic fireball tossed from earth into the sky created the Sun. The underworld then was perceived as the sun home. The myth is describing the sun traveling across the heavens stolen from the underworld by an ibex. The underground god, or its symbols the hunter or snake, retrieve the sun and brings her back home. There are many hunting scenes in Rockart that look real but they represent natural or mythical phenomena.
The classical Ibex hunting scene, in Negev Rockart, attempts to explain the mysterious Sun journey, its daily birth, and death. The rockart deciphered by relating it to known myth and recognizing the scene symbols and their staging. The deciphering of this rockart validated after collecting pieces of a myth that circulated in Central Asia. A. Golan captured the myth essence in his book (Myth and Symbols ):
“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.”
Fig. 1 Examples of an ibex, carries the sun from Asia. Left to right: Negev Desert, Persia, Pakistan, Tibet, and Siberia.
In the Asia and the Negev Desert rockart there are many examples of the Ibex that carries the sun. The Sun shape appears in a different variation such as a circle, dot, cross, as illustrated in Fig.1 and Fig2.
Fig. 2 Examples, from Negev Desert Rockart, illustrating the Ibex carries the sun. The sun is represented by a circle or a cross.
This myth explains the mysterious Sun journey, its daily birth, and death or disappearance at dusk. The main actors in this drama are the Earth God and the underworld God, and the Sun. The symbols in this hunting scene are the Hunter, the Sun, the Ibex, and sometimes dogs. Fig. 3 shows two rockart scenes, from Negev Desert, which are the hunt classic illustration.
In the left scene, it shows a struggle between the ibex and the hunter. The hunter, a figure with a beak which is a symbol of the god, chased and caught the ibex by the horns and thus releases the sun. He brings the sun safely back to the underworld and the daily harmony is restored.
Fig.3 Examples, from Negev Desert Rockart, illustrating the hunting scene. The sun is represented by a circle.
The right scene illustrates a hunting scene with the dogs. There are artistic similarities in the hunter figure in both illustrations. The scene contains four symbols, they are the hunter, the ibex with the sun between his horns, the two dogs and the fire of the underworld beneath the ibex. The hunter, the archer, has features of god, he is the underworld god. With the aid of his dogs, he is on a mission to bring the sun home, which is in the underworld.
The scene is imaginary but clues reveal the hidden intent that it is staged as a hunt. The ibex is trapped between the hunter and the dogs but he seems calm not alarmed. He looks at hunter calmly even surrender to him graciously. The artist could illustrate motion, or fear, as we can see in the hunter and the dog’s diagonal postures.
The promise of this myth is the assurance in the cyclical world order. Mysterious forces act in nature that asserts the Sun behavior, which guarantees the sun orderly behavior every day. The cosmic order is maintained!
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.