Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

LET THEM EAT MEAT. A sacrificial ram is depicted in this 2.75‑by-1.25-inch ivory, mother-of-pearl and red limestone mosaic inlay from an early-third-millennium B.C.E. Mesopotamian standard. Sumerian and Babylonian epics tell of ritualistic killings to feed the gods, as well as priests. From these Mesopotamian rituals, Israelite animal sacrifice for atonement and sanctification evolved.