Lately I have been fascinated by Mesopotamian art–particularly early Sumerian art.  Here is an inlay carved into a piece of shell from early dynastic Sumer (circa 2800-2600 BC).  It depicts the hero/king/god, Ninurta fighting a seven-headed dragon (ancient Mesopotamians were fascinated with the number seven—which they put everywhere, in case you ever wondered why the week has seven days).  Ninurta was a famous hunter and warrior (who some scholars suggest shows up in the Bible as the hunter Nimrod).  His attributes include a bow and arrows, a sickle sword, and a talking mace named Sharur! [as an aside, I feel like a mace would be a singularly brain-damaged talking entity]  Ninurta killed a sequence of seven heroic monsters in order to receive innovations and magical items (a tale which is echoed in the stories of Hercules and the offspring of Echidna).  One of the monsters he fought was this splendid 7-headed dragon which, in this carving, looks like a cross between a leopard and a seven headed snake.  This amazing mythological creature was quite likely the original version of the Greek hydra.  Additionally a seven-headed dragon has a big scary role in the events of the Book of Revelations—so he is more on people’s minds than Ninurta is, these days.  However all of these allusions and myths are not as important as the vitality and beauty of this amazing artwork—which is nearly 5 thousand years old!

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