Ibex Hunt and Sun Journey
The Ibex that stole the Sun.
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 perceived as the sun home from where it rose and set.
The Ibex hunting scene, in Negev Rock Art, attempts to explain the mysterious Sun journey, its daily birth, and death. The rock art deciphered this imaginary hunt by relating it to a known myth circulated in Central Asia that explains the daily sun journey magic. 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 and Fig2.
The hunt myth rock art
The hunt symbols in this myth are the Hunter, the Sun, the Ibex, and sometimes dogs that are the underworld god helpers. Fig. 3 shows two rock art scenes, from the Negev Desert, which are a classic myth illustration. In the left scene, it 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 and thus releases the sun, the circle in front. He brings the sun safely back to the underworld and the daily harmony is restored.
The right scene in Fig.3 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, is the underworld god and with the dog’s help, he brings the sun back home to the underworld.
There are artistic similarities in both illustrations a clue that demonstrates that a similar story played here. The imaginary scene in these rock art reveals the hidden intent of this staged hunt where all the symbols participate in the same play. The trapped ibex, between the hunter and the dogs, seems calm and not alarmed as wild animals suppose to behave. He looks at 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.
The myth premise assures the cyclical order of the sun. Mysterious forces act in nature asserts the Sun behavior but they also guarantee the sun orderly behavior every day. The cosmic order is maintained!
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.
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