|NEWS98, Congresso International de Arte
Vila Real, Portugal, 6-12 Setembro 1998
Typology of Astral Orbs in Rock Art
Astral orbs representation in Rock Art is a field of investigation which has been sofar
neglected. Megalithic architecture has received most of the attention of the
archaeoastronomy academic establishment, while archaeometrists have tended to restrict
their studies to ceramics. A more open-minded scientific approach has been launched
recently by Don Cyr. He has been the first researcher to recognise that small ice comet
falls might have favoured, three to five thousands years ago, conditions for the
observation of light refraction phenomena, such as solar halos.
Nowadays, the observations of astral orbs and their associated optical phenomena can be
"recorded photographically". At a given site, depending of local conditions, the
solar orb might appear as a rectangle (Fig. A /nn), a crescent (Fig. B /nn), or even a
"solar" system by itself (Fig.C /A.J. Mallmann).
At special time of the year, such optical phenomena can even be seen at archaeological
sites, such as Gizeh (Fig.D /nn), Isle of Lewis (see Fig.E /G.Ponting), or Mt Bégo at day
(Fig.F /nn) or at night (Fig.G /C.Wolkiewiez).
As semiologist, I tend to consider Rock Art mainly as the "graphical reports" of
our prehistoric ancestors, and only marginally as the artistic production of "shaman
in trances". Such a naturalistic, non-anthropocentric approach provides the necessary
incentive for a broad re-analysis of all the available evidences of astral events in Rock
Art. Those testimonies of the past are the only paleoclimatic data available to inform us
upon disturbing questions, such as the visibility of the extraterrestrial sky in neolithic
times, and the changes which might have taken place since then. Such data are particularly
important at a time when "classical" climate research is draining huge amount of
public money. It is of prime importance to show that Rock Art Research, by a better
understanding of our past, contributes to the assessment of our future.
In a separate contribution to this Symposium, I report how careful observations of
"repetitive astral events" have been reported as "calendars". Here, I
deal with the engravings of single observations of astral orbs, for which repetitive
schemes are not relevant. The "Ten Classes Typology" presented here concerns Rock Art pieces,
which are usually considered to represent astral orbs, while Don Cyr' typology concerns
more complex halos.
The Centre of the All
In Figure G is shown a lasting exposure of the "rotating sky" over Mt Bégo. The
eye of the camera of Chantal Wolkiewiez is directed toward the polar star. 3.000 year ago,
the "polar star" was different than today's, but standing at the "Centre of
the All" to observe how "it spins around its axis" was astounding to the
careful observer as it is today. Single circles with a central dot, or concentric
rings might be the engraved representations of this astral "merry-go-round".
Of course, one can argue that a dotted circle is the prototype of the ideogram
"sun", and that a concentric ring depicts a solar halo or…a drum, or a
shield, and, in fact, some do !
1. "Dotted World Circles", single circles with a central dot are found at
sites such as Twyfelfontein (Fig.1a /LD), Valcamonica (Fig.1b/LD & 1e/LD), Mt
Ogami-ishi (Fig. 1c/LD), or Galisteo Basin (Fig.1d/ P.Schaafsma).
2. "Concentric World Rings" have been first identified, by C. Wolkiewiez,
in the Merveilles Valley (Fig.2a). There exist examples of them with a varying number of
rings, e.g.: in Bohuslän (Fig.2b /LD), in Aberdeenshire (Fig 2c /A.G.Lottenbach)), in
Upper Rhine Valley (Fig. 2d /A.Priuli), or in Potosi (Fig.2f /M.Larrey).