Fertility scenes in Rock Art

rock art fertility ritual

Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rock Art

Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.

The rock art, from the Negev Desert Israel, presented here shows a fertility ritual inspired by the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis. It depicts symbolic representations of sexual acts to stimulate the reproductive process in humans, animals, and nature. The ancient Egyptians performed a ceremony of scattering semen over land and water to promote fertile land.

The Egyptian Osiris Myth

The Egyptian myth recounts the story of Osiris, who was killed by his brother Set who desired the throne. Set dismembered Osiris into fourteen pieces and tossed them into the Nile River. Isis, Osiris’s wife, searched the world and pieced together Osiris’ body, and impregnated herself with his semen, giving birth to Horus. The Egyptian Pyramid Texts state: “Your sister Isis comes to you [Osiris] rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues into her….”.

Osiris became a symbol of rebirth and regeneration upon his resurrection. His death symbolized the annual drought in Egypt and his rebirth coincided with the flooding of the Nile River, signifying the agricultural miracle of the country. To guarantee fertility, Pharaohs performed a masturbatory ceremony at the riverbank, spreading their semen throughout the Nile River’s waters to fertilize the river banks.

Osiris and Isis are Celestial gods

The ancient Egyptians charted the stars throughout the different seasons and identified Osiris and Isis with the Orion and Canis Major constellations, as depicted in Fig2. The Negev Desert rock art shows an ibex followed by a dog symbolizing the Orion and Canis Major constellations, which signaled the arrival of the fertile season.


Orion constellation as ibex rock art Negev Desert
Fig.2 Osiris and Isis symbols are derived from the constellations of Orion and Canis Major. The three-star above the boat identifies the Orion constellation. In the middle scene the constellation map of Orion and Canis Major. The rock art, on the right, shows the ibex and the dog, symbolically representing the Orion and Canis Major constellations.

The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rock Art

Fig.4 illustrates a fertility ritual that reenacts the Egyptian myth of Isis reviving Osiris. It depicts sexual imagery symbolizing the fertility of the land along with the appearance of the Orion and Canis Major constellations (Osiris and Isis) during the fertile season.

In this portrayal, the dog symbolizes Isis reviving Osiris by sniffing the ibex. The ibex’s shining horns express the intensity of this action, and at this moment, the ibex releases a spray of semen. The ibex’s phallus and the wet patch underneath represent this moment. The engraved dots and patches on the rock art top symbolize the formation of rain and clouds, which are symbols of winter and the start of the fertile season.

fertility scene rock art negev desert
Fig.4 The sniffing dog scenes. The ibex and the dog represent the constellations of Orion and Canis Major, Negev Desert Rock Art.


The Negev Desert rock art provides a unique insight into the ancient Egyptian’s beliefs and rituals related to fertility. The depiction of the Osiris and Isis myth, symbolizing rebirth and regeneration, was linked to the appearance of the constellations Orion and Canis Major during the fertile season. Their appearance symbolizes the arrival of the fertility of the land, animals, and humans.  Overall, the Negev Desert rock art provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs and practices related to fertility, and it offers an invaluable contribution to the study of ancient mythology and religion.


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

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Ardakani   ( 2016)  An Evaluation of the Historical Importance of Fertility and Its Reflection in Ancient Mythology
BOTICA       (2013)     Weather, Agriculture, and religion in the Ancient Near East and in the Old Testament 

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