Terracotta plaque of a dragon

Babylonian, about 800-550 BC
From Mesopotamia

This clay plaque closely corresponds to the general image of the ushumgal, the 'snake-dragon' of Sumerian poetry. The ushumgal can be a metaphor for a god or king; and is not necessarily evil or unpleasant.

The snake-dragon has horns, the body and neck of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, and the hind legs of a bird. It is represented in art from 2300 BC to the last centuries BC as a symbol of various gods or as a magically protective hybrid. It has been identified as the Akkadian mushhushshu or 'furious snake'. It is best known as the creature of Marduk, the god of Babylon. When Babylon was conquered by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (reigned 704-681 BC) the motif was brought to Assyria as a symbolic beast of the state god Ashur.

Plaques such as these were mass produced in moulds. Many show scenes of private life as well as images of gods and their worship. They may have been intended for private veneration or entertainment.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Black and A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of -1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

J. Oates, Babylon-1 (London, Thames and Hudson, 1979)

Dimensions

Width: 3.630 inches
Length: 4.000 inches

Museum number

ME 103381

WCO2653

Location

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