Astronomy in Rock Art. Venus calendar in Negev Desert Israel

Venus calendar in rock art, Negev Desert Israel

Ancient rock art suggests that the admiration for Venus is not solely based on its imagined beauty, but rather on its reliable astronomical cycles.  Every 8 years, the Mesopotamians celebrated Venus' arrival as a morning star near the Spring Equinox, forming an accurate and dependable cycle.

The official calendar used in Meopotamia was lunar. The yearly mismatch between the lunar and solar calendars amounts to 11 days a year. It caused chaos for Mesopotamia's administration, desynchronizing social and regulatory activities. The solution was to use the Venus cycle to certify the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is synchronized with the solar calendar once every eight years when Venus aligns with the Sun and Earth.

In Sumerian mythology, Venus was revered as the embodiment of the Great Goddess Ishtar/Inanna and held in the same high regard as the sun and moon. The Late Babylonian version of "The Exaltation of Inanna" praises the goddess, saying:

‘Oh divine mistress, may you be the one that shines over them, that they call you ‘divine source of all life’, at their sides (the Sun and the Moon), in your dominant position, may you gloriously accomplish your (celestial) crossing, even during the time that Sin and Utu are awake…'. (the moon and the sun).

Venus Octagonal and pentagonal cycles

Venus's predictable cycles elevated the planet to the ranks of the sun and the moon by creating a harmonious heavenly calendar that verified the match of sun and moon cycles. The knowledge of this calendar spread from the East to the West and far into the Americas.

Fig.1  Venus Octagonal and pentagonal cycles visualization

Venus's two celestial cycles form a long and accurate calendar. The first Venus cycle creates an octagon and the second cycle creates a pentagon (Fig.1).  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. A pentagonal cycle occurs when the Earth, Venus, and the Sun are aligned five times in an eight-year cycle. Both cycles became Venus symbols in rock art in the form of an octagonal or pentagonal star.

Venus 8 Year Calendar, Negev Desert Rock Art

Fig. 2 shows an ingenious Venus eight-year calendar rock art from the Negev Desert. All the elements necessary for counting the months and years can be found in this image. The wheel contains twelve cavities that count the months. On the left, an 8-branched plant counts the years.

The counter operates as follows: For each lunar month, a stone is added to a cavity in the wheel. When the wheel fills with twelve stones, it marks a complition of one lunar year. The wheel is cleared and a stone is placed on one of the eight plant branches. This process repeats until all plant branches are filled, signaling the completion of Venus's 8-year cycle. In the depicted scene on the right, Venus is seen riding a hybrid animal as she emerges from the underworld. The presence of the snake at the bottom indicates the underworld arena. Venus then proceeds through the heavenly gate, embarking on a new 8-year journey.

Venus calendar in rock art Negev Desert Israel
Fig.2   Venus calendar in rock art Negev Desert Israel, a counter of Venus  8-year cycle.

To synchronize the solar cycle with the lunar cycle, an extra 90 days are added over the course of 8 years. The leap months counter keeps track of 3 months addition, each comprising 30 days. The following shows the calculation for total days in 8 year cycle.

Total   number   of   days   in 8   years  solar    cycle   is: (365.25X8)=2922.
Total number of days in 8 years lunar cycle is: (29.5X12X8 + 3X30)=2922

Other forms of eight years Venus cycle counters, similiar to the one depicted in Fig.2, demonstrate their utilization in Negev Desert rock art. In Fig.3 two different rock art display an 8-year cycle counter. The left side counts the 8 years and the right side counts the 12 months. Their form is simpler without a fancy decoration. (The engravings in Fig.3 are outlined in black for better visibility.)

Venus calendar counters rock art Negev Desert Israel
Fig.3   Venus calendar counters rock art Negev Desert Israel, (photo Razy Yahel).

Venus Synodic Counter, Negev Desert Rock Art

The five-pointed star is a common symbol that appears in many rock art associated with Venus. An alignment between the earth, the sun, and Venus forms the star pentacle vertex every 584 days, which is called a synodic cycle. Five of these alignments occur every eight years, creating a five-pointed star as shown in Fig.4.

Fig.4   Moon calendar, Venus five-pointed star, Negev Desert rock art.

Already in 4000BC, the  Elamite calendar utilized the Venus synodic cycle, which lasts an average of 577 to 592 days. They divided the Venus synodic cycle into 72 lots of 8 days each. At the count end,  one week with up to 8 days was added for a complete cycle count

Fig.5, rock art from the Negev Desert, shows a simple and effective counter of Venus' Synodic cycle.  It consists of three sun symbols with 8, 9, and 8 rays each (from left to right) that count the synodic calendar days.

Astronomy in Rock Art. Venus calendar Synodic cycle counter
Fig.5   Venus calendar in rock art, Synodic cycle counter.

Each day is counted by placing a stone on one of the rays of the sun, starting with the right sun. When the right sun fills, counting continues to the middle sun after clearing the right sun. The counting continues until all rays in the middle sun are filled with stones, which concludes the count of (8X9)=72. Then the right and middle suns are cleared and a stone is added to the leftmost sun. Counting continues on the right and middle suns until all rays of the leftmost sun are covered. Upon filling all the rays with stones, the count amounts to (8X9X8=576). The counting cycle is completed when the Earth, Sun, and Venus are aligned which takes approximately 584 Earth days to complete.

During the octagonal cycle of Venus, five synodic cycles will occur, each resulting in the creation of one Venus star vertex. When the star vertex appear in the spring, symbolically represented by the ibex and the dog, which are associated with the constellations of Orion and Canis Major, it marks the end of the cycle. This alignment serves as a celestial marker, indicating the end of the octogonal cycle and the beginning of another. It is a powerful moment of transition and renewal.

Once this alignment occurs, a new count of the Venus cycle commences. It marks the initiation of a fresh series of synodic cycles and the continuation of the intricate dance between Venus, Earth, and the Sun. Each cycle brings its own unique cosmic energy and unfolds its own celestial story, as Venus progresses through its octagonal journey.


Venus calendar was a significant aspect of ancient astronomical knowledge and was widely recognized and utilized by various cultures. The rock art in the Negev Desert, Israel, is an example of the importance of the Venus calendar, as it features various symbols and counters depicting the octagonal and pentagonal cycles of Venus.

The rock art used as a tool for counting lunar months and years and also a counter for the synodic cycle of Venus. These intricate and ingeniously designed rock art images2 demonstrate the high level of astronomical understanding of the ancient peoples and their reliance on the Venus calendar in their daily lives.

The Venus-related rock art in the Negev Desert suggests that its inhabitants used the planet's cycles to adjust their calendars. The Venus cycle knowledge spread over a thousand miles from the Fertile Crescent to the Negev Desert, proving a cultural connection between the desert-dwellers and those in Mesopotamia..


Asia Haleem. (2013) The Venus Cycle and Venus worship in the Ancient Near East
Tsikritis M. (2015)  The complex planetary synchronization structure of the solar system
Iurii Mosenkis            Minoan  exact  science: SACRAL ASTRONOMY
Yehuda Rotblum   (2018) Deciphering Rock Art in Israel-   Book       Rock Art in Israel

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Yehuda Rotblum