Kharga Oasis spider rock art may be astronomical writing
Last week we reported on the discovery of a very unusual rock panel in the Kharga Oasis, 175 kilometres west of Luxor in Egypt, which Egyptologist Salima Ikram claimed was a depiction of spiders. While the date of the panel is still uncertain, it is thought to go back to prehistoric times, at least 4,000 BC or earlier.
Ikram described the main panel as a depiction of a few spiders with a ‘star’ that depicts a web, and cob-like drawings that could be insects trapped by the spiders. However, Dr Derek Cunningham, author of The Long Journey: 400,000 Years of Stone Age Science has another interpretation.
While the theory that the panel may represent the oldest known drawing of spiders in Egypt immediately garnered world interest, Dr Cunningham saw the panel as a chance to do an analysis on the art piece to see if the linear comb patterns matched his proposal that such patterns are in fact an archaic form of writing.
The most striking result of his analysis is that the rock panel matches exactly the proposed theory. The angular offset of the ‘spider body’ and the many lines drawn on the panel, align as predicted astronomical values considered central to the accurate prediction of lunar and solar eclipses. For example, the body of the proposed spiders are rotated by 13.66 degrees from vertical, a calculation which corresponds to half a sidereal month. This appears to link to the observation that the panel faced eastwards, which is the direction astronomers face to observe lunar eclipses.
Dr Cunningham explained: “Geometrical or compressional writing substantially predates hieroglyphs, but unlike proto-cuneiform, which retained a geometrical and astronomical basis, in early text Egyptian hieroglyphs directly developed to a pictorial form that avoided the use of angular astronomical arrays. The Kharga Oasis writing at circa 6,000 years old thus shows that geometric, compressional writing did exist in pre-dynastic Egypt, and that the structure of the writing is similar to that seen in text found in other regions.”
The astronomical analysis of the Kharga Oasis "spider" can be found here.