Ancient mantis-man Petroglyph discovered in Iran

Ancient mantis-man Petroglyph discovered in Iran... 17/03/2020 History

Keywords:#Arak, #Arak,_Iran, #Azad_University, #Egyptian, #Iran, #Iranian, #Islamic, #Islamic_Azad_University, #Khomein, #Praying,, #Taiwan, #Teymareh, #University

March 16, 2020
Pensoft Publishers
A rare rock carving of an insect found in the Teymareh site of Central Iran has been jointly described by a team of entomologists and archaeologists. The petroglyph shows a six-limbed creature with the head and arms of a praying mantis, but with two circles at its sides, similarly to the famous 'squatter man' petroglyph found at several locations around the world.
A unique rock carving found in the Teymareh rock art site (Khomein county) in Central Iran with six limbs has been described as part man, part mantis. Rock carvings, or petroglyphs, of invertebrate animals are rare, so entomologists teamed up with archaeologists to try and identify the motif. They compared the carving with others around the world and with the local six-legged creatures which its prehistoric artists could have encountered.
Entomologists Mahmood Kolnegari, Islamic Azad University of Arak, Iran; Mandana Hazrati, Avaye Dornaye Khakestari Institute, Iran; and Matan Shelomi, National Taiwan University teamed up with freelance archaeologist and rock art expert Mohammad Naserifard and describe the petroglyph in a new paper published in the open access Journal of Orthoptera Research.
The 14-centimetre carving was first spotted during surveys between 2017 and 2018, but could not be identified due to its unusual shape. The six limbs suggest an insect, while the triangular head with big eyes and the grasping forearms are unmistakably those of a praying mantid, a predatory insect that hunts and captures prey like flies, bees and even small birds. An extension on its head even helps narrow the identification to a particular genus of mantids in this region: Empusa.
Even more mysterious are the middle limbs, which end in loops or circles. The closest parallel to this in archaeology is the 'Squatter Man,' a petroglyph figure found around the world depicting a person flanked by circles. While they could represent a person holding circular objects, an alternative hypothesis is that the circles represent auroras caused by atmospheric plasma discharges.
It is presently impossible to tell exactly how old the petroglyphs are, because sanctions on Iran prohibit the use of radioactive materials needed for radiocarbon dating. However, experts Jan Brouwer and Gus van Veen examined the Teymareh site and estimated the carvings were made 40,000-4,000 years ago.
One can only guess why prehistoric people felt the need to carve a mantis-man into rock, but the petroglyph suggests humans have linked mantids to the supernatural since ancient times. As stated by the authors, the carving bears witness, "that in prehistory, almost as today, praying mantids were animals of mysticism and appreciation."
"Humanity's interest in the praying mantis can be dated to prehistoric times," the researchers wrote. "Praying mantids had great value to the Mesopotamian people who established the first civilization. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead (written on papyrus, 1555–1350 B.C.), praying mantids appear as the abyt-bird (bird-fly or bird-dancer), a smaller divinity of the underworld and a guide that accompanies the dead along their path in the Royal Palace of the great divine spirits... The main question is why prehistoric man was fascinated by mantids as far back as at least 4,000 years ago, and, consequently, why did they start scratching their images into solid rocks?"
While petroglyphs often depict larger animals, those representing a six-legged creature that appeared to be an invertebrate are not. The carving appears to have a triangular head, large eyes and the arms of a preying mantis. By analyzing the features further, the team concluded it is of an Empusa, a species of preying mantis found in Iran. They also note the carving appears to have legs that feature a symbol representative of the "squatting man" motif found in rock art across the world.
"The Iranian motif seems to be a combination of 'praying mantis' and 'squatting (squatter) man,' so it is hereby named 'squatting (squatter) mantis man,'" the researchers wrote.
The zoomorphic petroglyphs found in the mountainous regions of Iran are believed to have been created by nomadic tribes that lived there. The research project to survey them aimed to identify the animals depicted.
The team suggests it could relate to a "controversial hypothesis" proposed in the 1980s that says rock art was connected to the consumption of hallucinogenic plants. They also highlight the hunting ability of mantids, so may have been an inspiration to early humans.
Story Source:
Materials provided by Pensoft Publishers. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Journal Reference:
Mahmood Kolnegari, Mohammad Naserifard, Mandana Hazrati, Matan Shelomi. Squatting (squatter) mantis man: A prehistoric praying mantis petroglyph in Iran. Journal of Orthoptera Research, 2020; 29 (1): 41 DOI: 10.3897/jor.29.39400

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