Venus calendar in rock art, Negev Desert Israel
Closely behind the sun and the moon of celestial glory in Mesopotamia stands the bright planet Venus which symbolizes the image of the Great Goddess Ishtar/Inanna. Her appearances as the Morning Star and the Evening Star correspond to her dual character as the goddess of love and war. Each Venus appearance Morning/Evening last about 9 months which awarded her the title of goddess of love in Greece known as the goddess Aphrodite.
The Mesopotamians celebrated the cycle of Venus every eight years when she rose as a morning star near the Spring Equinox. Venus hymns from the astrologer-priests, composed with the highest praise of poetic art, attest the deep concern the Mesopotamians had for her arrival expressing great anxiety and greetings awaiting her return
“to that which appears in the sky I want to send a greeting to the largest queen of the sky, Innana, I want to address”.
The Venus omen collection from Assyria named “Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa” dated to the reign of the 1650BC ruler Ammisaduga, teaches us about the meticulous Venus observations. Venus sunrise and sunset time and her sky travel were documented by the priests with much attention followed by an interpretation and the consequences of her celestial journey. The astrologers regarded the bright Venus as blessed and the rayless Venus as unlucky. Venus disappearances were a great concern for the priests. Whether this heralds peace or war? Whether it was a sign of drought and famine?
“… Venus disappeared again in the West – the heart of the country is happy. In Nissan, on the twenty-seventh, Venus disappeared in the west … The country has riots, the harvest was very successful”
Venus observations by the priests organized the known elements of heavenly phenomena in an attempt to read the heavens as signs from gods and their possible effect on earthly affairs. But Venus importance was more than just reciting astrological omens; its predictable cycles elevated her to the sun and the moon ranks creating a harmonizing heavenly clock that verified the sun and moon cycle.
Long before the Mesopotamians adapted the Venus cycle the Elamites their neighbors, resided between Iraq and Persia, at 5th millennium decoded Venus synodic period of 584 days. This important calendar knowledge spread out to the West and East reaching far into Central and Southern America quickly adapted by the Mayan and Aztec Indians. Venus has two celestial cycles that can be used to create a calendar. The first Venus cycle creates octagonal and the second cycle creates a pentagon (Fig.1). Both have become the symbols of Venus in the ancient world. (see Asia Haleem 2013)
The octagonal cycle occurs every 8 solar years when Venus completes her long travel around the sun and returns to the same point in the sky where the cycle began. In the pentagon cycle: the Earth, Venus and the Sun are in line five times during the eight years cycle. The distance between the pentacle vertices is 584 days. It is a constant cycle that can be used to determine the passage of time as it was by the Elamites and the American Indians. Both cycles have become Venus symbols in rock art in the shape of a star either pentagonal or octagonal representing Venus cycle characteristics.
Venus Synodic cycle
Venus’s synodic cycle is the elapsed time where venus, earth, and the sun are in alignment. The Elamite divided Venus synodic cycle of 584 days into 72 lots of 8 day week each with the addition of up to 8 intercalary days for the days needed to complete the cycle. Venus travels crisscrossing the sky making 5 retrogressive loops that form a pentagon or five points star. It finally returns to its starting point every 5X583.9= 2919.5 days compare to solar days of 8X365.25 = 2922 repeating its predictable stations of (Superior Inferior) Conjunctions and the Greatest (East-West) Elongations points. Each synodic Venus cycle last 19 months, it contains a fluctuating number of days between 577 and 592. (Tsikritis M. 2015).
Venus 8 Year Calendar, Negev Desert Rock Art
This rock art, from the Negev Desert, creates an ingenious Venus 8-year calendar counter, Fig.3. The wheel with 12 cavities used as a month counter. The 8 branches plant counts the years. The counter is used as follows: A stone added to one cavity for every lunar month that passed. When the wheel filled with twelve stones, it marks the completion of one lunar year. The wheel is then cleared and stone is added to one of the 8 plant branches. A new count of twelve months begins again until all the plant branches are filled; this marks the Venus 8-year cycle completion. In this scene on the right, Venus riding a camel re-enters the heavenly gate to begin a new 8-year cycle journey.
Venus Synodic Counter, Negev Desert Rock Art
Venus Synodic cycle is a successive alignment of Earth, Sun and Venus. It is a predictable and repeating cycle, easily visible sky event that can be utilized as a calendar. Already in 4000BC, the Elamite calendar utilized Venus synodic cycle, which counts an average of 584 days that varies between 577 and 592 days. It divided the Venus synodic cycle into 72 lots of 8 days week. At the count end, one week with up to 8 days were added for a complete cycle count.
The rock art, in Fig.4, from the Negev Desert Israel is a simple and effective counter of Venus’s Synodic cycle. The three suns like symbol having 8, 9, and 8 rays each (from left to right) are used to count the synodic calendar days.
The count begins from the left sun where each day a stone is placed until it is full. Then a stone is placed on the middle sun and the left sun is cleared. The process continues until all the rays in the middle sun are filled which completes the count of 72. Then one stone is placed on the rightmost sun and the process continues until all the rays on the right sun are filled with stone. This final stone placement results in simple math of (8X9X8=576).
The yearly mismatch between lunar and solar calendars amounted to 11 days. Such a great difference caused havoc for the Mesopotamian administration. All social and regulatory activities were dis-synchronized and a method to verify their accuracy was needed. The solution was to use the Venus cycle to certify the lunar calendar. When Venus aligned with the Sun, and Earth once every eight years the calendars match was verified.
Venus influence appears in many rock art in the Negev Desert especially as a symbol of 5 point star. The rock art, presented here, shows that people living in the Negev Desert adjusted their calendar by Venus cycles. How this complicated astronomical idea arrived in this remote isolated place is unknown. What it shows that there was a connection between people living in the Negev and Mesopotamia and that ideas crossed a thousand miles into the desolate Negev Desert region all the way from the edge of the Fertile Crescent.
Asia Haleem. (2013) The Venus Cycle and Venus worship in the Ancient Near East
Tsikritis M. (2015) Astronomical and mathematical knowledge and calendars during the early Helladic Era in Aegean “frying pan” vessels
Nicola Scafetta (2014) The complex planetary synchronization structure of the solar system
Yehuda Rotblum (2018) Rock Art in Israel
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.
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