Analysis of the Linear Rock Art “Spiders” Discovered at Kharga Oasis: The Presence of Astronomical Writing in Early Egyptian Rock Art

Midnight Science (2013-2014), Volume 12, Paper 8

Author: Derek Cunningham

Paper Submitted: 24th Dec 2013, Published: 24th Dec 2013


2016 July Website Ad Page The Long JourneyThe recent discovery of “spider” rock art at the Kharga Oasis (1) is important as few pieces of art have been uncovered in Egypt that can be identified as linear astronomical “geometrical” writing (2,3). Geometrical writing, sometimes known as compressional writing, predates hieroglyphs, but unlike proto-cuneiform, which retained a geometrical and astronomical basis, early Egyptian hieroglyphs appear to have directly developed to a pictorial form and avoided the use of angular astronomical arrays (1). The Kharga Oasis writing at circa 6,000 years old now shows that linear geometric/compressional writing did however exist in pre-dynastic Egypt, and that the structure of the writing is similar to that seen in text found at other distant regions (3).


The linear astronomical/compressional writings found on Paleolithic/Neolithic artifacts are based on the study of solar and lunar eclipses. The archaic writing is, as perhaps expected, very basic and involves the simple conversion of astronomical values to an angle that is either north or south of due east, or to the east or west of due north. On mobile art the offsets are either to the horizontal or vertical.

It is possible that to produce a more complex writing style the observed variation in angle to either above, or below the horizontal, or to the right, or left of the vertical could theoretically produce a 36 character alphabet based on a nine consonant/angular system (3). Alternatively, similar to Japanese Hiragana, the consonants can perhaps be directly linked to vowels to create individual words. In this case the four quadrant to which the lines align would in this theory reflect the vowels a, e, i/y and u, and the angular lines the consonants K, W, N, G/H, S, T/CHI, M, F, R. Thus a line orientated to above the horizontal might be read potentially as Ka, but if orientated below the horizontal as Ku. The vowel o, or one of the other vowels, would in this consideration be considered separately, perhaps by the presence of circular symbols present in the drawing. Then there is a the possibility that the number of lines drawn to a specific angle might be used by the reader to construct a specific word. This system is found in Ogham, and also in modern asian text, for example in the word 川 Kawa for river, which employs three lines to represent water flowing. It is thus possible that astronomical-based geometrical writing can create quite easily both a complex coherent alphabet, or archaic pictorial writing system -see earlier work on proto-cuneiform text, and the study of Shang Dynasty Oracle Bones (2).

To date the oldest known samples bearing astronomical text range from circa 100,000 years old (the Blombos Cave ochres – see 400,000 Years of Stone Age Science) to between 200,000 and 400,000 years old (the linear carved stones and bones uncovered at La Grotte de l’Observatoire, Monaco, and Bilzingsleben, Germany). Of the oldest samples studied to date the fan motif uncovered at Bilzingsleben is structurally the most impressive.

As with all prior studies the same astronomical values are employed here to analyze the Kharga Oasis Panel (2,3).

The first astronomical value is the sidereal month, which is drawn as an angle at either 13.66 or 27.32 degrees to represent the half and full month values. After the duration of the sidereal month is known an astronomer can calculate that the earth moves approximately 1 degree per day around the sun, and then through more careful observation deduce that there is an eclipse season every 6.511 draconic months. Other parameters important for predicting eclipses are the 5.1 degree angle of inclination of the moon’s orbit relative to the ecliptic, and the 9.3/18.6 year lunar nodal cycle. Finally a value of 11 degrees is found on many early artifacts, which is believed to correspond to the 11 day difference between the lunar and solar year.

The Kharga panel, was found circa 175 km west of Luxor on the west wall of a shallow sandstone valley by a team led by Salima Ikram, North Kharga Oasis Survey Project, (The American University in Cairo). The panel has very tentatively been identified by the team as representing “spiders”, and a spider web.

The purpose of this study is to determine if the linear pattern aligns to the above standard list of astronomical values.


A drawing of the Kharga Oasis artwork is shown below. The image is analyzed with the astronomical lines offset either to the horizontal or the vertical. See papers published in volumes 8 to 12 of this journal and 400,000 Years of Stone Age Science.

As can be seen the Kharga Oasis panel shows several alignments to the sidereal month. However, the most striking  feature is the oval shape, the body of the proposed spiders, can also be rotated by 13.66 degrees from vertical. Also present are alignments to the angle of inclination of the moon’s orbit, the lunar nodal cycle, the 1 degree motion of earth as it travels around the sun and finally to 11 degrees, which is an almost ubiquitous value that represents the 11-day difference between the solar and lunar years.

The Kharga Oasis panel is thus the second known example of archaic astronomical writing found in Egypt, and predates by circa 1,500 years the astronomical sidereal-month alignments described by the causeways located in front of the Great Pyramids – see again 400,000 Years of Stone Age Science (3).


  2. See papers published in Volumes 8 through 12 Midnight Science.
  3. The Long Journey (400,000 Years of Stone Age Science), by Derek Cunningham.

© 2010 – 2013 Derek Cunningham; Midnight Science, ISSN 2160-0201;

Midnight Science Journal is the website domain name for the Journal Midnight Science.









This entry was posted in Volume 12: Dec 2013 – 2014 (Editing). Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *