Bootes Seasons Marker

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Bootes Seasons Marker

Rock art and its meaning. Deciphering rock art from Israel,

Similarly to books, rock art preserves ancient knowledge. When linked together they provide a visual record of ancient beliefs, thoughts, and practices. We learn, for example, that the time of the year can be determined from the cyclical arrival of stars. As evidenced by the rock art presented here, the seasons were determined using ancient astronomy.

Bootes Constellation 

The name Bootes, of Greek origin, implies a plowman or herder, since he follows the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations as they circle endlessly the pole star, see Fig.1. The main star of the Bootes constellation, Arcturus, shines with a golden yellow hue in spring and summer and is easily recognizable in the night sky.

summer constellation bootes
Fig.1  Northern constellations show the arrangement of stars around Bootes. Summer, July, looking North.

Ancient navigators and farmers knew Arcturus; his rising marked the Spring Equinox and his setting marked the Fall Equinox. In his poem, Works and Days, Hesiod (around 700 BC) reminds the farmers to count sixty days from the summer solstice to watch the rise of Arcturus 

‘Now, when Zeus has brought to completion sixty more winter days after the sun has turned in his course, the star Arcturus, leaving behind the sacred stream of the ocean, first begins to rise and shine at the edges of the evening. After him, the treble-crying swallow, Pandion’s daughter, comes into the sight of men when spring is just at the beginning. Be there before her. Prune your vines’.

Bootes as Seasons Marker rock art

Fig.2 of the Negev rock art shows us an example of employing star knowledge. In this rock art, we see three similar figures in a circle like an arrangement.   The repeated image shows the Bootes constellation as it appears in the sky at different seasons. It is recognizable by its kite-like body shape, the shiny star Arcturus, the extended hands over its head, and the dagger.

 Boötes seasons marker rock art Negev Desert
Fig2 Left: Boote’s constellation poses in different seasons taken from the constellation chart. Right: Bootes Seasons rock art marker, Negev Desert Rockart.  (photo Raai Yahel)

The different figure positions, in Fig.2, show the constellation Bootes rising pose for each season. In spring, it rises bouncing back to life after its demise in fall, in summer it stands upright, and in autumn, it vanishes from the sky as seen by the constellation falling pose, which symbolizes death. The ibex (Fertility God Orion constellation see,  Ibex and Rock art) takes Boote’s place as a symbol of the current fertile season, the winter,  which lasts until Bootes reappears in spring.


The glowing stars paved the way for the ancients to explain nature’s behavior. The star’s cycles made it possible for the ancients to create calendars. Throughout history, the stars have regulated life and their appearance became the ancient’s clock. Boote’s unique shape tracked easily and its appearance and disappearance marked the changing seasons from spring to autumn. His unique star shape turned him into a warrior fighting the hidden nature forces.  Not surprisingly, the belief in the star’s power is still alive in modern Astrology circles.

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

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