Footprint in Rock Art

footprint in rock art Negev desert Israel

Footprint – Heavenly Gates in Negev Desert Rock Art, Israel

Deciphering rock art from Israel,

Many rock art engravings of “footprints” have been discovered in the Negev Desert. These footprints are typically carved in pairs, with one being larger than the other, and sometimes they feature “ears”. According to Sumerian records, these footprints are believed to represent heavenly gates. There are two types of these gates – the Paradise gate, which is an entry point to Paradise, and the Stars gate, which serves as a connection between the earth and the celestial and underworld realms. Figure 1 illustrates the depiction and placement of the heavenly gates in the three realms, the underworld, earth, and heaven.

Rock Art footprint Negev Desert Israel
Fig.1 Heavenly gate  rock art from Negev Desert and their location in the 3 realms.

1. The Heavenly Gate  Astronomical Origins

John C. Didier (2009) postulates that the concept of a celestial gate is formed by the stars surrounding the North Pole. This includes the stars of constellations Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Draco as depicted in Fig. 2. The top of the gate is defined by the two stars of Ursa Minor, while the bottom is demarcated by the two stars of Ursa Major. The connecting lines between these four stars form a rectangular gate that encompasses Thuban, a star located in the tail of the Draco constellation. Around 4000 years ago, Thuban was the North Pole star and the center of the earth’s rotation. This imagery of the gate being carried by the bull, which symbolizes Ursa Major, harkens back to the ancient belief that this constellation was the entryway to paradise.

Rock Art News. Sumerian heavenly gate abstraction
Fig 2 Heavenly Gate illustration     Fig3  The Heavenly Bull and the Winged Gate.  On right, the Goddess Inanna climbs out the gate.

2. The Gates in Sumerian Cylinder Seals

Acadian cylinder seal Fig.3, dating back to 3000 BC, depicts the “Bull and the Winged Gate” scene. The winged gate is upheld by the celestial bull, derived from the Ursa Major constellation shape. Two deities control the gate by pulling a rope that symbolizes the serpentine Draco constellation. The gate is depicted with wings of slightly differing sizes, which symbolize the rising and setting direction. The right-side wing, which is larger, represents the direction of rising, while the smaller left-side wing signifies the direction of setting.

The “Epic of Gilgamesh “, written in 1500 BC, serves as an important historical record of the myth of Innana and the Celestial Bull. The illustration in Fig. 3 on the right showcases Innana stepping through the gate, depicted naked, being carried by the celestial bull. She steps directly onto the boat that sails across the celestial ocean, separating heaven and earth. The cylinder seal also conforms to the traditional depiction of the gate carried by the bull and the wing sizes.

3. The Footprint, Stars gate in Negev Desert Rock Art

Figure 5 showcases Rock Art examples of footprint engravings found in the Negev Desert. These footprints always appear in pairs and can be together or separated. They represent the rising and setting gates with wings, or “ears”. According to the artist’s imagination, the ears are reminiscent of a bird’s wings and provide the gates with the ability to float in the air. The artist accentuates the difference in rising and setting direction through variations in gate size, wing size, and gate outline thickness. The gates are in the shape of a footprint, which points to the body parts that walk into the gate. The gate schematic confirms the ideas outlined in the Sumerian cylinder seals adhering to the scheme of gates and wings sizes.

rock art footprint. examples from Negev desert
Fig5  Heavenly Gates  Negev Desert Rock art                         Fig 6 The Sun and Moon Gates

Figure 6 showcases a Rock Art example of four gates, depicted in the rightmost engraving. The top pair depicts the sunrise and sunset gates, with the sun appearing as a full circle between them. The bottom pair represents the moon rising and setting gates, which also appear between them. The ratio of rising and setting gates for the sun is maintained, however, the moon gates are of equal size as their brightness does not change.

Fig.7 displays engraved rock art gates from the Negev Desert along with their celestial connections. The gates are depicted from left to right as follows: 1) Venus entering the heavenly gate (as seen in the Venus Calendar), 2) the Venus Star hovering above its gates, 3) the moon exiting its rising gate (the right footprint), and 4) an ibex entering the gate, with half of it inside and half outside.

rock art footprint from the Negev Desert Israel
Fig.7 Examples of heavenly gates and their association  with celestial objects

4. The Heavenly Gate celestial abstraction 

Fig.8 depicts two galloping horses that are carrying a rectangular structure in tandem. This unique and visually stunning scene accurately represents all the constellations around the North Star. This particular sky region is of great importance since it marks the location of the Paradise gate and the north star the Thuban. The rock art represents the Northern sky, showcasing the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations that surround the North Star. It isn’t a literal depiction of the horses or the constellations, but rather an artistic interpretation of the constellations surrounding the North Star, depicted through familiar earthly symbols.

rock art illustration of the heavenly gate. Rock Art from Negev Desert Israel
Fig 8 The Heavenly Gate is situated around the North Pole the world pivot. The gate is carried by two horses representing the constellations Ursa Major/Minor and Draco. Negev Desert Rock Art (photo Razy Yahel)

The kneeling posture of the lower horse in the scene is reminiscent of the wheelbarrow shape of the Ursa Major constellation pose. The upper horse symbolizes the Ursa Minor constellation, while its long tail represents the Draco constellation that winds between the two constellations. The rectangular area where Draco’s tail crosses marks the location of the old North Star, Thuban,  from the 4th to the 2nd millennium BCE.


Rock art engravings of “footprints” have been found in the Negev Desert in Israel. These footprints are typically carved in pairs and are believed to represent heavenly gates according to Sumerian records. The concept of a celestial gate is formed by the stars surrounding the North Pole, including the constellations of Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Draco all in close proximity to the North Star. The depiction of the gate carried by the celestial bull, which symbolizes Ursa Major, evokes the ancient belief that this constellation was the entryway to paradise.

The Sumerian cylinder seals and Negev Desert Rock Art similarity are compelling evidence for the Heavenly Gates abstraction. Many details attest to their origins, the size of the gates, wings, and even the wavy line associated with the Draco constellation.

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

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Didier, John C               The Ancient Eurasian World and the Celestial Pivot.

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