The Heavenly Gates in Negev Desert Rock Art, Israel
The gates of Heaven are imaginary structures in the sky that according to ancient concept was a gateway between heaven and earth. The gates are located at the ecliptic plane intersection with the horizons, the place where the Sun, moon, planets rise and set. The heavenly gate located in the North Star vicinity above Ursa Major constellation.
1. The Gates in Sumerian Cylinder Seals
John C Didier (2009) hypothesize that the imaginary heavenly gate constructed from the stars around the North Pole. The prominent stars and constellations around the North Star, such as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Draco, create the gate outline, which appears in many Sumerian cylinder seals, shown in Fig1. The two Ursa Minor stars define the top and the two Ursa Major stars define the gate bottom. The imaginary lines connecting the four stars marked create a rectangle which forms the gate. This rectangular area surrounds the region of Thuban, a star in Draco constellation tail, the old North Pole star. This gate is carried on the back of the heavenly bull made from the outline of Ursa Major constellation.
Acadian cylinder seal Fig.2, dated 3000BC, depicts such a gate, called in the literature “The Bull and the Winged Gate”. The gate has wings and is supported on the back of the heavenly bull allowing it to float and move freely in the sky. Two gods on both sides of the rectangle gate are powering the gate by passing a rope passing between them, which implies a movement, a depiction of winding Draco constellation.
The gate wings that look like sun rays are of slightly different sizes symbolizing the rise and set direction. The bigger one, left side in Fig.2, symbolizes the rise direction and the smaller one the set direction. The wings illustrate the gate magical ability to float in the sky exactly as birds do. The similarity between the gates described by John C Didier, Figure1, and the cylinder seal in Fig.2 is very clear.
We have the gate textual and pictorial testimonies from Innana story, the Queen of Heaven, and the celestial bull from the Epic of Gilgamesh 1500 BC. In this cylinder seal, Fig.3, Innana stepping out from the heavenly gate carried on the back of the bull. She is heading straight from the gate, naked, and steps into the boat floating in a celestial ocean, that separates the heaven from earth.
2. The Heavenly Gates in Negev Desert Rock Art
Figure4 presents two examples of Rockart, from the Negev Desert, representing the Winged Gate abstraction. Common to all is a pair of gates, which look like heels of different sizes. The gate schematic is consistent in its details: the gates sizes and the wings conform to the idea presented in the Sumerian cylinder seals. The artist emphasized the differences in the sun strength, rising and setting, by the size of the gates, wings, the wings fullness, and the engraved gate lines thickness. The gates are in the shape of heels, symbolic of feet, which are the body part that is passing, in and out, through the gate.
Fig.5 illustrates a Rockart example with four gates. The upper gates are used for sunrise and sunset; the sun appears between them seen as a full circle. The lower gates are used for the rising and setting of the moon that appears between them. The sun is above the gates while the moon is below the gates, an ancient logic that describes the travel path of the sun and moon in the sky. The size ratio between the rising and setting sun is maintained as described previously, however, the moon gates are of equal size since its brightness doesn’t change.
Fig6 is an example of Negev Rockart, which shows two horses carrying a rectangular structure. The horses are a depiction of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations. The lower horse replaces the bull in the Sumerian heavenly gate concept. Its rectangle body reminds the shape of Ursa Major constellation. The upper horse represents the constellation Ursa Minor with its long tail that crosses the gate depicting Draco constellation that winds in the sky between these constellations.
The similarity of Sumerian cylinder seals and Negev Desert Rock Art are compelling evidence that Sun and Moon and the Heavenly Gates idea intricacies shared by the Negev Desert dwellers. This includes ideas such as different size for gate and wings. It also explains visually Fig.6 the heavenly gate imaginary construction and points out the location of the old North pole star Thuban at Draco tail constellation.
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.
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Didier, John C The Ancient Eurasian World and the Celestial Pivot.