Bootes Seasons Marker

rock art bootes season marker

Bootes Seasons Marker

Life in the past looks primitive to us, the 21st-century world citizens. Our tendency to belittle the early man stems from the massive knowledge and the technology we possess today. Interestingly to survive in ancient time man had to be more resourceful and knowledgeable about nature and world behavior as many Rock Art show us. Today to tell the date and time we just have to glance at our watch, it wasn’t so simple in the past. Time was extracted from the cyclical arrival of stars, including the cycles of the Moon and Sun. One had to know the sky well and memorize the appearance of its 3000 visible stars throughout the year. The rock art presented here is an example of using the stars to determine a season.

Bootes Constellation 

The name Bootes, Greek origin, translates to plowman or herdsman since he follows the bears Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations circling endlessly the pole star, see Fig.1. In later art, he appears with two hunting dogs on a leash and a club in his other hand. Arcturus, the main star in Bootes constellation, the fourth brightest star in the northern hemisphere, shines with golden yellow hues seen in the night sky in spring and summer.

summer constellation bootes

Fig.1The arrangement of the constellations 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

This Negev rock art Fig.2 presents us with an example, of star knowledge, that marks the season’s appearance in a single glance. In this rock art, we see three figures in a circle like an arrangement. This repeated figure, constellation Bootes,  engraved in different positions as seen in the sky according to seasons. It is recognizable by its kite-like body shape, the extension of hands over its head, and the dagger. This sky intricate knowledge dates this rock art to the Greek era appearance in Israel about 2000BP.

Bootes seasons marker rock art Negev Desert

Fig2 Left: Boote’s constellation poses in different seasons taken from the constellation chart. Arcturus position in the constellation Bootes marked by the yellow dot. 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 the springtime, it rises bouncing back to life after its departure in Fall, in the Summer it stands erect and in Fall it vanishes from the sky as illustrated by the constellation falling positions, in Fig.2, a pose that signifies death. The ibex (Fertility God  Ibex and Rockart) takes Boote’s spot, which is absent from the sky during the wintertime. This marks the wintertime as a fertile season until Boote’s spring appearance.

Bootes as a Hunter

A nice example of Boote’s role in rock art illustrated in Fig.3 assembled with almost two identical hunting scenes that clarify some ambiguities, especially in the left rock art with the unclear broken symbol above Bootes.  In both rock art, we see Bootes standing upright illustrating his pose in the summer.

Bootes killing ibex negev desert rock art

Fig.3 A symbolic hunting scene of Bootes killing the ibex with the appearance of the summer season. (photo Razi Yahel)

In the left image, the hunter (Bootes)  aims an arrow at the animal probably an ibex, and cut it into pieces.  The rightmost image is another rock art that shows Bootes holding the ibex with the sun above riding a boat made from the Virgo constellation outline located beneath Bootes constellation (see Fig.1). The meaning of this rock art is as follows: the hunter kills the ibex, symbolically it ends the fertility season represented by the ibex.  Boote’s upright pose announces the arrival of the summer season with its scorching sun that destroys all life in the desert.


The glowing stars paved the way for the ancients to explain nature’s behavior. The stars cyclical behavior allowed creating calendars that regulated life on earth and therefore quickly adapted by all cultures. Boote’s unique shape tracked easily and its appearance and disappearance explained the changing seasons from spring to autumn. His unique star arrangement turned him into a warrior fighting the hidden nature forces.  Not surprisingly, the belief in the star’s power is still alive and kicking in the modern Astrology circles.

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

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