A / Photo: inconnu
A.Finland/Syöte/96 /II/11/-20°C

B/ Photo: inconnu
B. Marocco/94/X/15
NEWS98, Congresso International de Arte Rupestre
UTAD, 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).

C/ Photo : A.J. Mallmann
C. USA/Wisconsin
D / Photo: inconnu
D. Egypt/Chephren's Pyramid
E / Photo: G.Ponting
E. U.K./Callanish/ 78/VI.13
F / Photo: inconnu
F. France/ Mt Bégo
G / Photo: Chantal Wolkiewiez
G.France/Mt Bégo/95/VI/13
H / Photo: Chantal Wolkiewiez
H. France/ Mt Bégo/Polar star
1a / Photo: L. Dubal
1a. Namibia/ Twyfelfontein
1b / Photo: L. Dubal
1b. Italy/ Paspardo
1c / Photo: L. Dubal
1c. Japan /Ogami-ishi-yama
1d / Photo: P.Schaafsma
1d. USA/NM/San Cristobal
1e. Italy/Zurla
2a / Photo: C. Wolkiewiez
2a. France /Mt Bégo
2b /Photo: L. Dubal
2b. Sweden /Aspeberget
2c / Photo: A.G.Lottenbach
2c. U.K./Aberdeenshire
2d /Photo: A.Priuli
2d. Switzerland/ Carshenna/-884
2f / Photo: M.Larrey
2f. Bolivia/ Betanzos.

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