Ibex Hunt Sun Journey

mythological ibex hunt negev desert rock art

The Ibex that stole the Sun.

According to a belief originating in Central Asia, from the Neolithic time, holds that the Sun was created by a volcanic fireball tossed into the sky from earth. The underworld was then considered as the place where the sun rose and set. Many myths about the sun’s journey flourished throughout the ancient world.   One of them is called “the ibex who sole the sun“, which shows the ibex carrying the sun. The scene attempts to explain the mysterious Sun journey, its daily birth, and death. In these scenes, an ibex carries the sun and it is confronted by a hunter, representing the underworld god, who tries to return it back home.   The deciphered rock art of this imaginary hunt relates it to a myth that circulated in Central Asia that attempts to explain the daily sun journey.  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.”

In the Negev Desert and Asia, there are many examples of the ibex hunting scene carrying the sun. The sun shape varies it may be a circle, dot, cross,  as illustrated in Fig.1.

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

The hunt myth rock art

The following scenes, in Fig.3, depict a hunting scene that in essence describes the sun’s journey at dusk, the most vulnerable time in the suns’ daily journey.  The symbols in this myth are the Hunter, the Sun, the Ibex, and sometimes dogs that are the underworld god helpers. The two rock art scenes, from the Negev Desert, illustrate the myth essence.

The left scene in Fig.2 shows a struggle between the ibex and the hunter.  The hunter, a figure with a beak, a symbol of the god, chased and caught the ibex by the horns shaking it and thus releases the sun, seen as the circle in front. He brings the sun safely back to the underworld and the daily harmony is restored.

sun myth the ibex hunt negev desert rock art
Fig.3 Examples, from Negev Desert Rockart, illustrate the ibex hunting scene. The sun is represented by a circle.

The right scene in Fig.2  illustrates a hunting scene with dogs.  The scene contains four symbols, they are the hunter, the ibex with the sun between his horns, the two dogs, and the underworld fire beneath the ibex. The hunter, the archer wearing a corona over his head, impersonates the underworld god with help of his dogs brings the sun, seen as the circle between the ibex horns, back home to the underworld.

There are artistic similarities in both illustrations hinting that the same story played here. The revealing clues here are the appearance of the sun and the ibex behavior. The trapped ibex between the hunter and the dogs seems calm and not alarmed as wild animals suppose to behave. It stares at the hunter quietly and even surrenders to him graciously. The artist could illustrate motion, or fear, as we can see in the hunter and the dog’s diagonal postures. We recognize this unnatural ibex behavior that suggests an imaginary event. It exists beyond the illustrated simple hunt elevating it into the mythical sphere.


The sun hunt myth spread throughout the old world and a similar concept appears in Egypt (see Sun Journey) Asia and European mythologies. In essence, the hunt tries to explain the sun’s cyclical order an intricate phenomenon to grasp in ancient times. The myth premise is that mysterious forces act in nature that asserts the Sun’s behavior but they also guarantee the sun’s orderly behavior every day, maintaining the cosmic order!


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


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

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