Mysterious Six-Legged Figure Petroglyph Discovered In Iran

The prehistoric rock art depicts a six-legged figure that appears to be inspired by praying mantis insects discovered in the Teymareh rock art site in central Iran (Markazi Province) during a 2017 and 2018 survey of petroglyphs or prehistoric stone engravings by a team of archaeologists. 

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 a 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 on March 2020.

"Mantis Man" petroglyph found in Iran (Photo by M. Naserifard / Drawing by M. Kolnegari) Image Credit: The Vintage News 

The press release on the paper suggests this is just another form of a Squatter Man or Squatting Man petroglyph – which has been drawn by virtually all ancient cultures around the world. Figure is usually a stick man with the normal number of arms and legs and it definitely looks to be squatting. Because of that, the researchers eventually began referring to the Iranian figure as a Squatting Mantis Man. While humans are known to squat for a wide variety of reasons, it’s a mystery why Squatting Man or Squatting Mantis Man does it. 

The image is about five and a half inches long and just over four inches at its widest point. It has six legs, with the top two unmistakably the legs of a mantis, as well as a triangular head. It was carved into the rock using a chisel and hammer method, but the team is unable to precisely date it because of Iran’s sanctions regarding the radioactive substances needed for carbon data measuring. 

The earliest known rock art petroglyphs in Iran are in the central-west area of Teymareh and date back 7000 years ago, although the range may be much wider. 

The scientists estimate the Iranian carving could be anywhere from 4,000 to 40,000 years old. Based on the depiction of the insect anatomy, the entomologists believe the mantis likely belonged to a local species called Empusa, also known as a conehead mantis. 

This particular one stuck the initial discoverers as resembling a “Empusa hedenborgii” mantid native to this region that has an odd-shaped head like the carving. Mantids are mystical insects in many cultures and the upper arms and lower legs should close the deal on the identity … but then there’s those round things on the ends of the middle arms/legs.



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