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Winged Genie with Horned Helmet

Because most people in the ancient Near East could not read, artists developed symbols to help individuals identify the figures on palace and temple walls. As a sign of their supernatural essence, the human-headed genies in the reliefs from Ashur-nasir-pal II's palace all wear horned helmets. This association between horns and divine (or semidivine) presence had a long history in the ancient Near East. Beginning in the Akkadian Period (circa 2371–2230 B.C.) artists used bovine horns as symbols of divinity, and biblical and archaeological evidence indicates that horned altars were common in Israelite religion.

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