Footprint in Rock Art

footprint in rock art Negev desert Israel

Footprint – Heavenly Gates in Negev Desert Rock Art, Israel

Deciphering rock art from Israel,

Numerous “footprints” engravings have been found in Negev Desert rock art. They are generally engraved in pairs one larger than the other, and sometimes they have “ears”. Based on Sumerian records we interpret these footprints as heavenly gates. There are two types of gates: the Paradise gate, which serves as an entry point to Paradise, and the Stars gate, which serves as an entrance from the earth to the celestial realm, and the underworld. Fig.1 illustrates the abstraction and location of the heavenly gates in the three realms, the underworld, the earth, and the heaven.

Rock Art footprint Negev Desert Israel
Fig.1 Heavenly gate  rock art from Negev Desert and their location in the 3 realms.

1. The Heavenly Gate  Astronomical Origins

John C Didier (2009) hypothesize that the imaginary heavenly gate is constructed from the stars around the North Pole. It includes the constellations around the North Star, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Draco, as shown in Fig2. The two Ursa Minor stars define the top of the gate and the two Ursa Major stars define the bottom of the gate. The imaginary lines connecting these four stars form a rectangle gate that encloses Thuban, a star in the tail of the constellation Draco. About 4000 years ago, Thuban was the North Pole star and the earth’s pivot. In this image, the bull carries the gate, reminiscent of the constellation Ursa Major, which the ancients considered to be the gate to paradise.

Rock Art News. Sumerian heavenly gate abstraction
Fig 2 Heavenly Gate illustration     Fig3  The Heavenly Bull and the Winged Gate.  On right, the Goddess Inanna climbs out the gate.

2. The Gates in Sumerian Cylinder Seals

Acadian cylinder seal Fig.3, dated  3000BC, depicts a gate called in the literature “The Bull and the Winged Gate”. The winged gate is supported by the heavenly bull, a depiction of the Ursa Major constellation. Two gods power the gate by passing a rope depicting the winding Draco constellation. The gate has wings of slightly different sizes symbolizing the rise and set direction. The larger wing, on right in Fig.3, symbolizes the rise direction and the smaller one, on left, symbolizes the set direction.  

The Epic of Gilgamesh 1500 BC contains the gate textual and pictorial testimony as described in the myth of Innana and the Celestial bull. Fig.3 illustrates Innana exiting naked from the heavenly gate carried by the heavenly bull. She steps straight into the boat that sails the celestial ocean that separates heaven from earth. This cylinder seal also conforms to the scheme of gate and wing sizes.

3. The Footprint, Stars gate in Negev Desert Rock Art

Fig.5 presents Rock Art examples of footprint engravings from the Negev Desert. They always appear as a pair, sometimes together and also separated.  They comprised the rising and setting gates with wings or “ears”. The “ears” are reminiscences of birds’ wings, which award the gate the ability to float in the air. The artist emphasized the differences in rising and setting direction by, the gates sizes, the wings sizes, and the gate outlines thickness. The gates are in the shape of a footprint, which points to the body parts that walk into the gate. The gate schematic confirms the ideas outlined in the Sumerian cylinder seals adhering to the scheme of gates and wings sizes.

rock art footprint, examples from Negev desert
Fig5  Heavenly Gates  Negev Desert Rock art                         Fig 6 The Sun and Moon Gates

Fig.6 illustrates a Rock Art example of four gates, the rightmost engraving. The upper pair shows the sunrise and sunset gates; the sun appears between them seen as a full circle. The lower pair shows the moon rising and setting gates that appear between them. The sun’s gate size ratio, of rising/setting, is maintained, however, the moon gates are of equal size since their brightness doesn’t change.

Fig.7 shows examples of engraved rock art gates from the Negev Desert with their heavenly association. From left to right: 1. Venus entering the heavenly gate (see Venus Calendar) 2. Venus Star hovering above its gates. 3. The moon exits its rise gate (the right footprint), 4. An ibex enters the gate, half of it inside and half outside.

 footprint and the heavenly gate rock art Negev Desert Israel
Fig.7 Examples of heavenly gates and their association  with celestial objects

4. The Heavenly Gate celestial abstraction 

Fig.8 shows two galloping horses carrying in tandem a rectangular structure. This beautiful and unusual scene faithfully depicts the constellations around the north star, see Fig.7. This is the most important sky region that also marks the location of Paradise gate. The rock art is a sky picture depicting Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations that enclose the north star Thuban. Don’t look for a pictorial resemblance of the horses and the constellations. It is an artistic abstraction of the constellations around the north star represented by familiar earthly symbols.

 Heavenly gate as a North star Negev Desert Israel
Fig 8 The Heavenly Gate is situated around the North Pole the world pivot. The gate is carried by two horses representing the constellations Ursa Major/Minor and Draco. Negev Desert Rock Art (photo Razy Yahel)

The lower horse’s kneeling posture reminds the wheelbarrow shape of the Ursa Major constellation. The upper horse represents Ursa Minor constellation. Its long tail depicts the Draco constellation that winds between these two constellations. The rectangular area Draco’s tail is crossing marks the old North Star Thuban location, from approximately the 4th to 2nd millennium BCE.


The Sumerian cylinder seals and Negev Desert Rock Art similarity are compelling evidence for the Heavenly Gates abstraction. Many details attest to their origins, the size of the gates, wings, and even the wavy line associated with the Draco constellation.

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

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Didier, John C               The Ancient Eurasian World and the Celestial Pivot.

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