Congresso International de Arte Rupestre
UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal, 6-12 Setembro 1998
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
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).