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The Imagery of the Bull in “The Kesh Temple”

The Imagery of the Bull in “The Kesh Temple”

            The Bull is a peculiar creature seen throughout current and pre-historic times. We are going to concentrate on the pre-historic world of the Bull. Though its big size may seem intimidating to people in prior times, it was worshipped by many. We also find that other cultures find other horned animals to worship and create a multitude of art of. To name a few, The Goddesses in the Kesh Temple, The Chauvet Cave and those in the Lascaux Cave systems. Below, the Bulls were dated back to 5600 years ago. ( )

In Kesh (Also referred to as Kec) ( ), was located right in the middle of the Tigris and Euphrates River Region. This is where the many goddesses and gods resided.  Kish was also described as being “constructed in c.2700 B.C. by Enmbargesi of Kish” … “Sometimes being dated to 5262 B.C.” and “lying between the river’s modern course of Tigris, almost 160km south-east of Baghdad.” ( ) Below is a map of the region.

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They had a great love for the Bulls and would often gather offerings of grass and hay for them to eat. Nisaba, who was a beautiful, thin, long blonde-haired goddess, was particularly interested in the Bulls and loved them so dearly! “Nisaba is the Sumerian goddess of writing, accounting, and grain. She is the daughter of An and Urash, and sister of Ninsun. With her husband Haya, god of storehouses, she is the mother of the goddess Sud, whose name was changed to Ninlil when she married Enlil, god of the air. Nisaba keeps the records of the gods, and as the divine scribe she was especially worshipped by Sumerian scribes. She is depicted with long flowing hair, and her tiara features a crescent moon and ears of corn, since she was also associated with the harvest. Nisaba’s name means “lady of the grain rations,” which explains her combined roles as goddess of grain and of accounting, and is also seen as NissabaNidabaNanibgal, and Nunbarshegunu (lady whose body is dappled barley).” (

“Surprisingly we are still missing Iconography evidence for Nidaba, be it as agricultural deity or goddess of writing. Various agricultural deities, female and male, are depicted on old Akkian cylinder seals and Nidaba as a goddess of writing.  A paradox is that Nidaba’s physical appearance and attributes as a goddess of writing are described in great detail and with consistency in many Mesopotamian literacy products.” ( )

“Nisaba reflects fundamental developments in the creation of Mesopotamian culture, those which take us from agriculture to accounting, to a very fine literacy tradition. Nidaba was originally an agricultural deity, specifically a goddess of grain. The intricate connection between agricultural and accounting/writing implied that it was not long before Nidaba became the goddess of writing. From then on her main roles was to be the patron of scribes.” (http:// )

There is one part of the hymn that makes me ponder: “Will any mother ever give birth to someone as great as the hero Acgi?” ( ) As it repeats, it makes me wonder if the gods, godesses and Kings are looking to bear a child.

The beautiful temple was made of mud bricks, and stood high like a pyramid. Inside were many wonders for the gods, goddesses and Kings. “Dating back to around 2600 BC, the ancient works were found written in cuneiform text on clay tablets and reliefs at the Temple Library at Nippur, Tell Abu Salabikh, modern day Iraq.” ( )


When we consider the Cave of Lascaux, we also find that they relished the beloved Bulls as well, just as the people in Kec. The “Lascaux is famous for its Palaeolithic cave paintings, found in a complex of caves in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, because of their exceptional quality, size, sophistication and antiquity. Estimated to be up to 20,000 years old, the paintings consist primarily of large animals, once native to the region. Lascaux is in the Vézère Valley where many other decorated caves have been found since the beginning of the 20th century.”  ( )

There are many intricately detailed paintings and etchings of bulls throughout the cave. The pre-historic people must have truly loved the Bulls. Amazingly, “One of the bulls is 17 feet (5.2 m) long – the largest animal discovered so far in cave art.  Also represented are cattle, bison, felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Among the most famous images are four huge, black bulls or aurochs in the Hall of the Bulls.” ( ) With such intricate design and attention to detail, you can tell these creatures meant something special to them! Bison and horses were also found along the walls of Lascaux.

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The Chauvet Cave was estimated to be used by “humans over 35,000 years ago, during the upper Paleolithic period (40,000 to 30,000 BP).” ( ) They found black mammoth bones within the cave, covered in calcite. They decorated the walls with mainly herbivores: “horses, mammoths and rhinoceroses.” ( ) There is no mention of Bulls in this cave, but other horned animals.

“Another hunt, considerably more spectacular, is visible on the Lion Panel in the End Chamber. There, black and engraved lions are depicted in dynamic positions staring at and pursing a herd of bison which is fleeing towards the left… On the panel of the Horses, the hunt if not the central subject. Studying the super imposition of the figures shows a succession of species represented: First the Rhinoceros, then the aurochs, and finally the four horses positioned in the centre of the panel, in a space set aside for them” (

So why is it that Kec and Lascaux are almost or are worshipping Bulls, but the people of Chauvet focus on other horned animals? The pre-historic people are a world of wonder, and we can only speculate their intentions. The horns of the animals must have been some sort of attraction for them! Maybe they wanted their horns to make noises, or maybe they just admired their simple beauty.




Works Cited

“Composed Panels.” Web. 18 June 2017.

“Chambers of the Bear Hollows.” Web. 18 June 2017.

“Nisaba.” 9 September 2008. Web. 11 July 2017.

“Winter Bull Feeding.” Web. 13 July 2017.

“The Kesh Temple Hymn.” Web. 13 July 2017.

“The Kesh temple hymn: translation.” Web. 10 July 2017.

“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses.” Web. 11 July 2017.