(also known as the Great Bear)
is a constellation visible
throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere. It is dominated by
the widely recognized constellation known as the Big Dipper, which has served as
a navigational pointer helping travelers to find Polaris (the north star) for
thousands of years, and has mythological significance in numerous world
The constellation of Ursa Major has been seen as a bear by many distinct
civilizations. This may stem from a common oral tradition stretching back
more than 13,000 years.
The Iroquois Native Americans interpreted Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid as three
hunters pursuing the Great Bear. According to one version of their myth, the
first hunter (Alioth) is carrying a bow and arrow to strike down the bear. The
second hunter (Mizar) carries a large pot "The star Alcor"" on his shoulder in
which to cook the bear while the third hunter (Alkaid) hauls a pile of firewood
to light a fire beneath the pot.
As one of the most widely recognizable constellations in the northern
hemisphere, the Great Bear has helped millions of people reach their destination
for thousands of years.