Erich Lessing

In the late second millennium B.C., Eannatum, the king of the Sumerian city of Lagash, expressed disdain for his enemies by having them depicted with their skulls being carried away by vultures—in a stela (shown in this detail) commemorating Eannatum’s victory over Umma, a rival city to the north. Similar images of human heads being picked at by vultures were depicted thousands of years earlier at the Neolithic site of Catal Hoyuk, in southern Anatolia—again suggesting the perdurability of powerful symbols.