The Pylos Combat Agate artwork is celestial in its pattern,

as is other ancient artwork from around the globe

image: Pylos Combat Agate, c. 1500 BC. Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Pylos Combat Agate, c. 1500 BC. Wikimedia commons (link).

The discovery of the Pylos Combat Agate in a Mycenaean shaft-grave tomb dating to 1500 BC may be one of the most significant archaeological and artistic finds in decades, perhaps in centuries. The level of artistic sophistication and detail are stunning -- the more so because the piece itself is so small (just over 3.6 centimeters or 1.4 inches at is widest point) and the level of detail is so incredibly high, with some details only half a millimeter in size: "incomprehensibly small," according to one of the scholars responsible for the discovery (see article here).

Experts are already debating the meaning of the scene in the artwork, which shows a triumphant warrior plunging a sword into a heavily-shielded combatant wearing a crested helmet, while another warrior lies sprawled-out beneath their feet, apparently already dead. Unnoticed until now, however, is the fact that this scene contains details which reveal that its pattern is in the heavens: the two main figures locked in combat contain details specific to the constellations Hercules and Ophiucus, with the nearby Corona Borealis included as well.

The reflection of specific constellations in artwork from ancient Greece has clear precedent in artwork on pottery that has been in museums for centuries, but the find from the Pylos tomb on the Combat Agate provides new evidence that the practice of reflecting specific constellations in fine artwork existed at least 1,000 years prior to those later examples.

In fact, this practice of basing artistic scenes upon specific constellations in the heavens can be seen in other ancient artwork from other cultures around the world as well, including ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia. The Pylos Combat Agate thus provides startling new confirmatory evidence which adds to a compelling body of existing evidence from both ancient texts and ancient art which argues that the world's ancient myths and sacred stories are speaking a celestial language, encoding the heavenly cycles of the sun, the moon, the visible planets, and (perhaps most of all) the stars and constellations.

Here is a paper I wrote soon after the first images of the Pylos Combat Agate were released to the public, in early November of 2017, detailing the evidence which supports the conclusion that the artwork is based upon the specific constellations of Hercules, Ophiucus, Scorpio, and the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis). Here is a version of that paper which appeared in Ancient Origins in December, 2017.

As that essay explains, I designate the three figures seen in the Pylos Agate artwork as the Swordsman, the Spearman, and the Fallen Warrior, tinted in the sketch below in red, blue, and green, respectively:

pylos illustration.jpg

To anyone who has spent a lot of time looking at the connections between figures in artwork and the constellations, these three figures display unmistakable celestial attributes, corresponding to the constellations Hercules (Swordsman), Ophiucus (Spearman), and Scorpio (Fallen Warrior), with the additional detail of Corona Borealis included by the ancient artist (or artists) to make the identification beyond doubt.

Below is a star-chart showing the region of the night sky containing these figures:

ophiucus etc.jpg

It is an extremely important region of the night sky, containing as it does the brightest and most distinct portion of the Milky Way band, with the widest part of the galactic disc (the region of the Galactic Core and the Great Rift) rising up between and just above the zodiac constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius, and including the looming figures of Ophiucus and Hercules, who play central figures in myths around the world.

As the essay above should make abundantly clear, the correspondence between the Swordsman in the Pylos Agate and the outline of Hercules is undeniable -- the more so because the ancient artist or artists have depicted the figure reaching out to grasp the distinctive upwards-opening helmet-crest of the Spearman figure in the artwork:

pylos detail.png

The connection to the constellation of Hercules and surrounding constellations is confirmed by this action. As can be seen in the star-chart below, in which the Hercules constellation's outline has been tinted red, to correspond to the Swordsman, Hercules is located in the night sky above the "heavily-armored" outline of the constellation Ophiucus, and adjacent to the beautiful arc of stars forming Corona Borealis, or the Northern Crown:

ophiucus etc 4.jpg

And, while the lower arm of Hercules (the arm not holding the sword) is not envisioned as reaching out to grasp the arc of the Northern Crown, we could easily supply an additional "connecting line" between the stars in order to imagine Hercules as doing so:

ophiucus etc 4b.jpg

In fact, myths around the world are based on this very connection, in which a Hercules-figure reaches out to grasp a figure associated with the arc of the Northern Crown. Often, the Northern Crown is envisioned as a vigorously-arching infant, which is a rather strange connection but one that is found, for example, in the well-known story of the Judgment of Solomon in the Hebrew Scriptures of what is also commonly known as the Old Testament of the Bible:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note the outlines of both swordsman and baby in each of the following illustrations of the same scene (found in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In fact, there are other myths from other cultures in which a Hercules figure lifts up an infant -- notably the story of the rescue of the infant Maui by his grandfather, from the sacred stories of the Polynesian cultures of the islands of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the other islands which stretch across the vast Pacific Ocean.

The recent discovery in the Pylos Combat Agate provides yet another example of this ancient world-wide pattern, a pattern which I am convinced is based on the stars of Hercules and Corona Borealis.

The other figures in the artwork on the Pylos Combat Agate can also be shown to have clear celestial references, as the articles above explain (link to the Ancient Origins article from December, 2017). Specific features in the Spearman, to whom the Swordsman is delivering a mortal blow, correspond to the outline of Ophiucus in the heavens -- and Ophiucus is positioned immediately below the menacing figure of Hercules in the night sky. As I discuss in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (which focuses almost entirely on the mythology of ancient Greece), the figure of Ophiucus often appears in ancient myth as a spear-wielding figure (particularly in the myths of ancient Greece, including in the Iliad and likely in many aspects of the goddess Athena as well). Note that the Spearman (like Athena) can be seen to be wearing a helmet in the artwork of the Pylos Agate -- and that the detail on the Spearman also appears to include a fringed garment visible just below the bottom edge of his shield, reminiscent of the Aegis which is associated with the figure of Athena.

The outline of the left (or eastern) side of the constellation Ophiucus can also be seen as forming a somewhat battered shield, as the star-chart below indicates (the region of stars that may form the inspiration for the battered shield-area in the Pylos Agate is shown tinted in blue):

ophiucus etc 3.jpg

Finally, the twisted form of the Fallen Warrior in the Pylos Agate almost certainly corresponds to the region of Scorpio and Sagittarius, beneath the feet of Ophiucus in the night sky. Note that Scorpio forms the inspiration for other "fallen warrior" figures in later ancient Greek pottery, such as in the famous artwork on the early fifth century BC bell-krater by the artist known as the Pan Painter which can be seen in the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and which I have previously argued to be based on the figures of Sagittarius and Scorpio:

artemis actaeon sagittarius scorpio.jpg

That scene depicts the goddess Artemis slaying the unfortunate hunter Actaeon. The angles of the figures, the height of the bow, the positioning of the feet of the goddess and the bend of her knee, the length of her skirts, and even the tassel on what appears to be a quiver or other weapon atop her shoulder, can all be seen to correspond very closely to the outlines of the constellations in the night sky. Actaeon is throwing his hand in the air as his own dogs tear him apart, and we can see that the angle of his body, as well as the position of the dogs on his head, create an outline which evokes the angle of the constellation Scorpio. Indeed, even the dog on his thigh with its rear legs standing near the hunter's knee might be seen as corresponding to the upward-curving part of the constellation Scorpio that ends in the stinger.

Similarly, the figure of the Fallen Warrior in the Pylos Combat Agate creates a shape with his upward-pointing knee which evokes the upward-rising "head" (or heads) of Scorpio, while his contorted upper arm (his right arm, as his back is towards the viewer) seems to correspond to the stinger-tail of the constellation.

Intriguingly, the convention of draping one arm over the head, as seen in the posture of the Fallen Warrior on the Pylos Combat Agate, is found in fine art from previous centuries depicting scenes from the Bible -- and, as I have argued in the past, it is used when depicting a character who is associated with the constellation Sagittarius! 

For example, in the painting below depicting the scene of "Jacob's Ladder" or "Jacob's Dream," by the Italian painter Salvatore Rosa (1615 - 1673), we see the figure of Jacob asleep on the stone, with the vision of the ladder or stair stretching to the heavens above the sleeping traveler:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note the position of Jacob's arms, and compare them to the position of the arms on the Fallen Warrior in the Pylos Combat Agate.

I have previously published an extended analysis of the celestial correspondences in the above painting, in my book Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (2016). I argue that the ladder stretching to the heavens corresponds to the Milky Way galaxy, which rises up between Sagittarius and Scorpio (this region of the Milky Way band is the widest and brightest part of the Milky Way, and corresponds to the Galactic Core). You can see that the artist in the painting above has echoed this brightest section of the Milky Way in his depiction of the clouds in the sky to the right of the sleeping figure of Jacob. I also argue that the angles which the scripture passage describes as ascending and descending upon the stair correspond to the winged figures of Aquila and Cygnus, the two great birds of the Milky Way, one of which can be seen as ascending and the other as descending.

Below is another example, this time in a painting depicting Bathsheba at her bath, by the painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 - 1656):

image: WIkimedia commons (link).

image: WIkimedia commons (link).

Note once again the position of the arms of the central figure, Bathsheba. Here again, I have argued in writing in the past that Bathsheba corresponds to the constellation Sagittarius (in Star Myths of the World, Volume Three; see for example pages 156 - 157 and 530 - 535).

Now, the Pylos Combat Agate has surfaced, showing that this convention is thousands of years older than those Renaissance paintings (either that or the Pylos Combat Agate is a clever hoax created by someone with intimate knowledge of these conventions and of the correspondence of artwork and the constellations of the night sky -- a possibility which I do not believe to be likely at this time).

The survival of this convention for thousands of years is astonishing.

Based on these images, I would argue that the Fallen Warrior in the Pylos Agate probably corresponds to a combination of the figures of Sagittarius and Scorpio, as conceived by the ancient artist or artists who conceived this amazing artistic work in miniature.

There are many other examples in ancient artwork which demonstrate that this practice of encoding the outlines of specific constellations was by no means limited to ancient Greece, although surviving pieces of ancient Greek pottery provide numerous examples for us to examine. For instance, the vase below shows a favorite scene of ancient artists, in which the powerful hero Heracles (or Hercules) attempts to run off with the tripod from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi -- while the god Apollo himself gives chase:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note the position of the legs of the hero as he runs away with the tripod -- closely corresponding to the "deep lunge" which characterizes the outline of the constellation Hercules shown in the star-charts above. Note also the mighty club of the warrior, held over his head, evoking the outline of Hercules in the night sky. The parallels to the artwork on the Pylos Combat Agate, and in particular the triumphant Swordsman in that scene, are unmistakeable. As I discuss in my book Star Myths of the World and how to interpret them, Volume Two, I believe that the tripod in this case probably corresponds to the outline of the constellation Ophiucus, which is between Hercules and Sagittarius in the sky. The god Apollo corresponds to Sagittarius -- and you can see from the angle of his bow how the figure in the artwork corresponds to the constellation itself.

Here is another example from ancient Greece, showing Heracles wrestling Triton. Even though he is entwined within and partly obscured by the coils of the sea-god, you can see that the ancient artist has depicted the outline of Heracles in the same outline as the outline of the constellation Hercules in the night sky:

image by the author, at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, July 2016.

image by the author, at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, July 2016.

I discuss the celestial correspondences shown by some of the details included in the depiction of Triton in this previous post.

But despite the fact that we call the constellation "Hercules," there are examples of ancient artwork dating back far earlier than ancient Greece -- and even further back than the accepted date of the Pylos Combat Agate, found in a tomb that has been dated to approximately 1500 BC -- which also incorporate the same outline of the constellation that we know as Hercules. The system of celestial metaphor which underlies the world's ancient myths and the world's ancient artwork is found around the world -- a common, world-wide system -- and it appears to have been fully mature long before the earliest texts we know of from ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia.

Below is an image from ancient Mesopotamia, depicting a figure thought to represent either Gilgamesh or Enkidu, who also displays the very same deep lunge characteristic of the outline of the constellation we know as the constellation Hercules:

gilgamesh Wrestles Lion.jpg

Note that this hero (likely to be either Gilgamesh or Enkidu) is wrestling a lion -- which is a feat which is also associated with the mythical character of Heracles in ancient Greece, thousands of years later. Heracles must wrestle the Nemean Lion, barehanded, and after Heracles defeats the lion, he wears the skin of the beast as his distinctive outfit for the remainder of his career. The above artwork suggests that the stars which are often envisioned as the "sword" (or club) of the constellation Hercules could also be envisioned as the lion with which he is wrestling -- and that this is probably the reason why he must wrestle the lion without weapons (because the stars which usually form the main weapon associated with the constellation Hercules are instead playing the role of the mighty lion itself).

And, in another ancient culture, that of ancient India, there are numerous figures in the myths and scriptures who are associated with the constellation Hercules in the heavens. Among these are the hero Bhima in the Mahabharata (who has many similarities to Heracles or Hercules in the myths of ancient Greece and Rome), and also the god Hanuman, who identifies himself as a close relative to Bhima in the text of the Mahabharata. Hanuman is a god with the head of a monkey -- and the outline of the constellation has a distinctly square shape, which is why figures associated with this constellation often have a full beard, or in the case of the god Hanuman, a "ruff."

Below is an image of Hanuman from a relief sculpture in India -- many other depictions of Hanuman could be found, often in a deep lunge posture characteristic of Hercules, or kneeling on one knee.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that in this case, the arching tail of the god takes the place of the sword or club which figures associated with the stars of Hercules often brandish over their head -- but, if you read the scriptures of ancient India, including the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, you will know that the god Hanuman's chosen weapon is a powerful mace, which is very typical of figures associated with the outline of Hercules in the sky. Bhima, who is also associated with the same constellation, also favors a huge mace as his chosen weapon.

These are connections between ancient artwork and the stars of the heavens which I have been writing about for years -- prior to the new discovery of the Pylos Combat Agate. The fact that this incredible piece of ancient artwork, which was unknown to the world during the time that I was analyzing the connections of other ancient artwork to the very same constellations, has now surfaced showing some of the very same constellational connections (and on an artifact completely unlike anything else scholars had previously seen from the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures) should have academics looking into the abundant evidence which shows that the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories -- and the fine art associated with them -- are based upon an even more ancient system of celestial metaphor.

Scholars involved with the discovery and examination of the Pylos Combat Agate are already saying that it is changing the way we look at history. I believe that the previously-unnoticed correspondences between the artwork on the Pylos Agate and the constellations in our night sky -- correspondences which connect this incredible artifact to ancient artwork and ancient myths from cultures around the world (even as far aways as the cultures of Aotearoa / New Zealand and the cultures of the islands which stretch across the vast Pacific -- should also create a complete paradigm-shift in the way we look at history.

The Pylos Combat Agate is yet another startling piece of evidence that the conventional understanding of humanity's ancient past stands in need of serious and radical reconsideration.

Pylos_Combat_Agate_Photograph 04 colors and stars.jpg