Bootes Seasons Marker

Rock Art astronomy research news. . bootes season marker

Bootes Seasons Marker

Many rock art preserved ancient knowledge just as our books do today. You find rock art in central nomads’ gatherings or holy places. There, the rock art engraving took place that eventually turned them into a visual book or a means of transferring knowledge to many generations. Interestingly to survive in ancient times 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 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, 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.  Arcturus, the main star in Bootes constellation, the fourth brightest star in the northern hemisphere, shines with golden yellow hues easily recognizable 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 marked the season’s appearance in a single glance. In this rock art, we see three similar figures in a circle like an arrangement. The repeated figure is a classical Greek/Roman figure of Bootes constellation, 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.

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 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 a pose that signifies death. The ibex (Fertility God Orion constellation Ibex and Rockart) takes Boote’s spot announcing the fertile season in the desert that lasts until Boote’s spring re-appearance.


The glowing stars paved the way for the ancients to explain nature’s behavior. Their cyclical behavior allowed the creation of 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 in modern Astrology circles.

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

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