Bootes Seasons Marker

Rock Art astronomy research news. . bootes season marker

Bootes Seasons Marker

In ancient times, rock art preserved ancient knowledge in the same way that books do today. You usually find rock art in central nomads’ gatherings or their holy places. These rock art engravings eventually lead to the creation of a visual book and a way of passing knowledge down to future generations.  Survival in ancient times required men to be more resourceful and knowledgeable about nature and the world. For example, today we can easily tell the date and time by looking at our watches, but it wasn’t so easy 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 many stars to figure out nature’s behavior. The rock art presented here is a fine example of using astronomy to determine the seasons.

Bootes Constellation 

The name Bootes, of Greek origin, implies a ploughman 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.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

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 extended hands over its head, and the dagger.

Rock Art astronomy research news. 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 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.   Their cyclical behavior made it possible to create calendars that regulated life and therefore were quickly adopted by all cultures. 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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