Friday, December 22, 2017

Celestial correspondences in the Pylos Combat Agate connect it to myths and art from other cultures around the globe

Top image of Pylos Combat Agate from Wikimedia commons (link here), colorized. 
Bottom image by the author, using stars from the free open-source planetarium app Stellarium.

Previously, I wrote about the amazing and newly-discovered artifact found in the region of Pylos (on the western edge of the Peloponnese), an agate measuring just 37 millimeters across, upon which an ancient artist (or team of artists) had inscribed a combat scene featuring three figures, with a level of anatomical detail and artistic sophistication that has astonished scholars and art historians

The find, dubbed the Pylos Combat Agate, was one of thousands of artifacts contained in a (previously) undisturbed shaft-grave identified as that of a warrior from the Mycenaean civilization and thought to date to approximately 1,500 BC. The archaeologists who worked on the excavations dubbed the warrior who was buried in the grave the "Griffin Warrior," after an ivory plaque with griffin artwork which was found between the legs of the body (see discussion in this fascinating article from the Smithsonian magazine, published in January of 2017, before the limestone-encrusted artwork on the Pylos Agate had been cleaned-off and revealed to the world again after 3,500 years).

One of the archaeologists who led the team involved in the discovery and excavation of the tomb and the discovery of the gemstone, Shari Stocker, stated: "This seal should be included in all forthcoming art history texts, and will change the way that prehistoric art is viewed" (cited in this article from the Telegraph). 

I could not agree more: this find does indeed rank as an extremely important discovery -- all the more so because the artistic conventions in the incredibly small and detailed sealstone image can be shown to match other artwork which corresponds to specific constellations in the night sky, and that this previously-unknown piece belongs to an ancient tradition of reflecting the heavens in art and in myth, a tradition which is found literally around the globe.

When the first images of the Pylos Combat Agate were published, I immediately noticed that the artwork appears to embody aspects of the constellations Hercules, Ophiucus, Scorpio and Sagittarius, in ways that are found in other artwork from other cultures and other centuries. Here is a link to a paper which I wrote within a few hours of seeing the images of the Pylos Agate for the first time, in early November. 

Unfortunately, no scholarly journals devoted to archaeology or ancient history to which I submitted that paper were interested in publishing it. Eventually, a shortened version was published in a popular online magazine, Ancient Origins, which you can read here.

However, due to the limitations of space and scope, neither of those two articles showed the full range of the evidence which supports the conclusion that the scene on the Pylos Combat Agate is patterned upon celestial foundations, and that it displays unmistakable correspondences to mythological details ranging from the Hebrew Scriptures to the Maui cycle of the cultures of the Pacific Islands.

A more complete discussion of those correspondences has now been published on this page of my primary website,, and that discussion can also be reached via the "Resources" page of that site (a link at the bottom of any page of the site will take you to the "Resources" page).

That discussion shows that the figures on the Pylos Agate line up with the constellations Hercules, Ophiucus, Corona Borealis, Scorpio, and Sagittarius -- correspondences which are also explained in the other two previous essays linked above, my unpublished paper and the shorter article in Ancient Origins. But it also shows that specific conventions found in the Pylos Agate artwork from 1500 BC can be shown to be part of a tradition of celestial correspondences which continued to appear in fine artwork for more than two thousand years after the Pylos Agate was sealed within the tomb of the "Griffin Warrior."

For instance, the figure I call "the Swordsman" in the Pylos Agate artwork (shaded in red on the illustrations in my previous articles and in the image of the sealstone shown above) can be seen to be grasping the curved crest of the helmet of the figure I refer to as "the Spearman."

This detail, in addition to the general outline of the Swordsman's body posture, confirms that the Swordsman corresponds to the figure of the constellation Hercules in the night sky -- for Hercules is located very close to the brilliant arc of stars which form the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis), and there are numerous myths from around the world in which a figure who corresponds to Hercules grasps a figure which corresponds to the Northern Crown.

Among those myths, which I have written about in previous posts, are the story of the Judgment of Solomon from the text of 1 Kings chapter 3, in which Solomon instructs a swordsman to cut a living baby in two (see previous post here and video here):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In the above painting, from the 1600s, we see a powerful swordsman with a sword held over his back, grasping an infant by the heel. The infant is arching his body vigorously -- as infants will indeed do when they are upset. The swordsman in this case corresponds to the constellation Hercules, and the arching infant corresponds to the Northern Crown, or Corona Borealis, which is close enough to Hercules in the night sky for us to imagine the constellation reaching out to grasp it.

Other myths from around the world also feature a Hercules figure grasping an infant -- notably, the story of baby Maui from the Maui cycle of myths found across the cultures of the islands of the vast Pacific Ocean, from Hawai'i to Aotearoa (New Zealand). In the Maui stories, baby Maui is described as being thrown into the sea foam by his parents, who do not want him. The child is protected by seaweed and jellyfish so that he does not perish, until his mighty grandfather Tama of the Sky rescues the abandoned baby Maui and hangs him up in the rafters to dry above the fire.

In that myth, Tama is again Hercules, and the baby is Corona Borealis (which is indeed located high up in the "rafters" of the sky, not far from the north celestial pole). The fire in this case corresponds to the smoky column of the Milky Way galaxy, which rises up towards Hercules as can be seen in the star chart at the top of this post.

Other myths and stories involving Hercules grasping Corona Borealis which have been discussed in the pages of this blog (as well as in books I have written which were published long before the Pylos Combat Agate artwork was revealed) include the "rapture" described in Revelation chapter 12 (see discussion in this previous post and in this previous video), as well as the story which begins the entire cycle of tales in the Thousand Nights and a Night (also known as the Thousand and One Nights, or the Arabian Nights), in which Shah Zaman departs from his palace to visit his brother King Shahryar, but forgets a string of jewels which Zaman had intended to bring with him as a gift.

When Shah Zaman returns to get the necklace, he discovers his wife in the act of having sexual relations with another man, and immediately draws his scimitar and cuts both his wife and her lover in half (cutting "the two into four pieces," as the text says). Once again, a figure who is reaching for a string of jewels while swinging a mighty sword can be seen to correspond to Hercules and the shining arc of the Northern Crown, as discussed in these two previous posts from October of 2014 (here and here).

Other figures in the Pylos Agate also have correspondences to constellations, as well as to artwork found in cultures around the world. As discussed in my earlier articles linked above, the Spearman has clear correspondences to the outline of the constellation Ophiucus in the night sky. Ophiucus is located immediately below Hercules in the heavens, and thus it is understandable that in some mythical episodes he corresponds to a figure who is slain by a Hercules figure (although in other myths Ophiucus corresponds to a descendent of a Hercules figure, which is also understandable and reveals intriguing aspects of this ancient world-wide system of patterning myths on the stars).

In my book Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible), published in 2016, I provide an extended discussion which argues that the giant Goliath, slain by David with his sling, corresponds to  the towering figure of Ophiucus in the night sky. There are numerous details in the description of Goliath in the scriptural text (specifically in 1 Samuel chapter 17) which reveal that Goliath corresponds to Ophiucus, including the description of his armor. Note that the Spearman in the Pylos Agate scene is also heavily-armored, and that (like Goliath) he carries a spear.

In the confrontation between David and Goliath, David wields a sling -- and the weapon brandished above the head of the constellation Hercules could easily be envisioned as a sling rather than as the sword or club it usually plays in other myths. Furthermore, after David has stunned Goliath with a stone from his sling, the text describes David as taking the mighty sword of Goliath and cutting off his head. Below is a painting of David slaying Goliath from about the year 1616, in which David can clearly be seen to be portrayed in a manner which corresponds to the outline of Hercules:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that David in the artwork above has placed one foot on the side of Goliath's head -- a detail which can be seen to correspond to the outlines of Hercules and Ophiucus in the heavens (see star chart at the top of this post).

This correspondence shows that the identification of the Swordsman and the Spearman in the Pylos Combat Agate scene with the constellations Hercules and Ophiucus (respectively) is well-founded, and that it also aligns closely with sacred stories from other cultures (as well as with artistic conventions which appear to have continued to be employed for thousands of years after the Griffin Warrior was laid to rest in his tomb).

My previous articles also demonstrate that the goddess Athena almost certainly corresponds to Ophiucus in the heavens. It is well known that artwork depicting Athena often depicts her with a helmet, a spear, and the fringed Aegis -- and a close look at the Pylos Combat Agate will reveal that the Spearman is also depicted as wearing a helmet, wielding a spear, and wearing a sort of fringed garment which can be seen beneath his shield, between his legs.

Finally, the outline of the third figure in the Pylos Agate artwork, whom I refer to as the Fallen Warrior in the scene, can be seen to be depicted with details which correspond to the features of Scorpio and Sagittarius in the heavens, both constellations which are located beneath both Ophiucus and Hercules in the night sky.

As noted in my earlier articles, the constellation Scorpio plays the role of a wounded warrior in other ancient myths, as well as in ancient artwork such as the scene on the Greek bell-krater from the early sixth century BC depicting Artemis slaying the unfortunate young hunter Actaeon:

The correspondences between the figures of Artemis and Actaeon from the ancient artwork and the figures of Sagittarius and Scorpio in the heavens should be obvious.

Additionally, the arrangement of the arms of the Fallen Warrior in the artwork on the Pylos Combat Agate show that the ancient artist (or artists) was using artistic conventions for figures associated with  this region of the sky in other artwork from other centuries, depicting sacred stories from other cultures.

Specifically, I have previously argued that the convention of draping a hand over the head corresponds to the constellation Sagittarius, and that it has to do with the "plume" or line of stars which we can see rising up on the left side of the outline of the head of Sagittarius in the above image (and in the star-chart at the top of this post).

Below is a painting from the year 1665 of the episode in Genesis commonly referred to as "Jacob's Ladder" or "Jacob's Dream," in which Jacob has a vision of a stair or ladder reaching from the earth up to the heavens, and angels ascending and descending upon it (Genesis 28). Jacob is asleep with his head upon the stone at the lower left corner of the painting, in red:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note the configuration of the arms of the figure of Jacob as depicted by artist Salvatore Rosa (1615 - 1673) and compare them to the positioning of the arms of the Fallen Warrior in the scene from the Pylos Combat Agate from 1500 BC (or earlier). The correspondence could not be more compelling!

In Star Myths of the World (2016), I spend some time discussing the celestial details in the above painting, and in other depictions of the Genesis 28 episode of "Jacob's Ladder." Artist Salvatore Rosa has clearly envisioned Jacob as corresponding to the position of Sagittarius in the night sky, and the ladder stretching to heaven is of course the shining band of the Milky Way galaxy, which rises up between Sagittarius and Scorpio. The brightest and widest part of the Milky Way is found just above the point where it passes between Sagittarius and Scorpio -- this brightest, widest portion corresponds to the Galactic Core -- and you can see that Salvatore Rosa has painted the clouds in a manner which is suggestive of that very portion of the Milky Way.

The angels which the scriptural text describes as ascending and descending upon the ladder in Jacob's Vision almost certainly correspond to the winged figures of the constellations Aquila and Cygnus, the two great birds of the Milky Way galaxy, one of which can be seen to be flying upwards (or ascending) in the Milky Way band, and the other of which can be seen to be flying downwards (descending). This detail, as well as others in that text, confirm that the sleeping Jacob corresponds to either Sagittarius or Scorpio (or perhaps a combination of the two).

Below is another example, this time from a painting of Bathsheba at her bath, by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 - 1656):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is another painting which I discuss at some length in Star Myths of the Bible (see for example pages 156 - 157 and 530 - 535). Bathsheba almost certainly corresponds to the constellation Sagittarius in the night sky, and I should not have to point out that the positioning of her arms once again corresponds to the positioning of the arms found in the artwork on the Pylos Combat Agate for the figure of the Fallen Warrior.

It is certainly remarkable that this artistic convention appears to be in use in artwork conceived before 1500 BC and in artwork conceived in the 1600s AD (and later)!

Taken together, they form compelling evidence for the existence of a worldwide system of celestial metaphor which informs ancient myth and ancient artwork in cultures literally around the globe and across vast gulfs of time.

The fact that the Pylos Combat Agate was not even unearthed until after I had written about these correspondences makes it an extremely conclusive piece of confirmatory evidence for the widespread operation of this system in antiquity. Added to the fact that it such an early piece of artwork, and such a technically and artistically sophisticated artifact, the Pylos Combat Agate becomes a truly paradigm-shifting discovery.

I wholeheartedly agree with lead archaeologist Shari Stocker when she says that, "This seal should be included in all forthcoming art history texts, and will change the way that prehistoric art is viewed."

In fact, when seen in the context of the world-wide system of celestial metaphor of which it is a stunning example, the Pylos Combat Agate should change the way we view all of ancient history.