The Guennol Lioness is a 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian statue depicting an anthropomorphic lioness. The statue was found near Baghdad, Iraq and is on display in New York City’s Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The Lioness Demon, an Elamite figure believed to have been created circa 3000–2800 BC, was on loan to the Brooklyn Museum of Art until it was purchased at auction by an English collector. Its historical significance is that it is thought to have been created at about the same time when the first known use of the wheel, the development of cuneiform writing, and the emergence of the first cities were recorded.
These humanlike animal figures can be seen in the top and bottom registers of the trapezoidal front panel from the famous Great Lyre from the “King’s Grave” (circa 2650–2550 BC), which was discovered by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley early in the 20th century at Ur in present-day Iraq.
Many ancient Near East deities were represented in anthropomorphic figures (figures with human and animal features merged). Such humanlike animal images evoked the Mesopotamians’ belief in attaining power over the physical world by combining the superior physical attributes of various species. The nearby Sumerians possibly borrowed this powerful artistic hybrid from the Proto-Elamites.