Half-Human, Half-Praying Mantis Carving: Looks Like An Alien

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A part-human, part-insect glyph found in Iran (Photo by M. Naserifard / Drawing by M. Kolnegari)

Possible Half-Human, Half-Praying-Mantis Carving Found on Ancient Rocks

By Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com

A few years ago, researchers stumbled upon an unexpected find in central Iran: a strangely shaped glyph with a spindly body sporting six limbs, a triangular head and two bulging eyes. Described as half human, half praying mantis, the curious figure, described in a paper recently published in the Journal of Orthoptera Research, still largely eludes explanation. But it may represent an insect-themed variant of the so-called “squatting man,” a circle-heavy motif that adorns ancient rock faces found worldwide, reports Daisy Hernandez for Popular Mechanics.

First spotted during a series of surveys conducted between 2017 and 2018, the five-and-a-half-inch-long rock carving initially befuddled researchers. Eventually, however, it caught the attention of a team of entomologists and archaeologists who set out to give the glyph a proper story.

Careful inspection led the entomologists to conclude that the carving likely depicted the head and grasping forelimbs of a praying mantis belonging to the genus Empusa, which is native to the region. Described as “raised and opened,” these buggy legs may have been splayed out to the glyph’s sides to suggest a threatening stance—hinting, perhaps, that its creators had reason to admire or even fear the predatory insects, according to Popular Mechanics.

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