The Heavenly Gates in Negev Desert Rock Art, Israel
The gates to the upper and lower worlds in Negev Rock Art
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The gates of Heaven are imaginary structures in the sky that according to the ancient concept was a gateway between heaven and earth. The gates are located at the intersection of the ecliptic plane 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. It is built from the region prominent stars and constellations, such as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Draco. These stars 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 stars of Ursa Major define the gate bottom. The imaginary lines connecting the four stars 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 Ursa Major constellation.
Fig 1 Heavenly Gate illustration
A cylinder seal Figure 2 from Akkadian time, 3000BC, depicts such a gate. This cylinder seal is called in the literature “The Bull and the Winged Gate”. The gate has wings and is supported on the back of the heavenly bull, which allows it to float and move freely in the sky. Two gods are presented on both sides of the rectangle gate. They are powering gate by passing a rope passing between them, which implies a movement, a depiction of winding Draco constellation.
Fig2 Acadian Cylinder Seal, The Heavenly Bull, and the Winged Gate, Sumer
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 also explain the viewer, their 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 above is very clear.
We have textual and pictorial testimonies of the story of Innana and celestial bull from the Epic of Gilgamesh 1500 BC. In the cylinder seal, Figure3, Innana stepping out of the heavenly gate carried on the back of the bull. The gates wings are of slightly different sizes, the right wing larger than the left indicating the difference of sunrise and sunset gate. She is heading straight from the gate, naked, and steps into the boat floating in a celestial ocean, that separates heaven from the earth.
Fig 3 Cylinder Seal, Inanna steps out from the gate of heaven.
2. The Heavenly Gates in Negev Desert Rockart
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 the idea presented in the Sumerian cylinder seals. The artist emphasized the differences in the sun strength by the size of the gates, wings, their 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.
Fig4 The Pair of Heavenly Gates, Negev Desert Rockart
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. This is probably an ancient logic that describes the path of the sun and moon travel path in the sky. The ratio between the size of the gates of the rising and setting sun is maintained as described previously, however, the moon gates are of equal size since its brightness doesn’t change.
Fig 5 The Sun and Moon Heavenly Gates, Negev Desert Rockart
Fig6 is an example of Negev Rockart, which shows two horses carrying the 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 is a shape depiction of constellation Ursa Major. 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.
Fig 6 The Heavenly Gate carried by two horses, Negev Desert Rockart
The similarity of Sumerian cylinder seals and Negev Desert Rockart 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, the portion of the tail in the frame, (Fig.6) the envisioned location of the heavenly gate, around the old North pole star Thuban.
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.