About fifty miles to the north-east of Baghdad, an irregular eminence known as Tell Asmar has covered till recently the town of Eshnunna, which was abandoned to the desert after its destruction by Hammurabi in the twentieth century before Christ. The excavations now being conducted there by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago have unearthed, among other important finds, a number of cylinder seals from early Dynastic and Akkadian levels, of which those reproduced in Fig. 1 and Plate II, 1, together with one seal (Plate II, 2) from the Southesk collection, form the basis of this article.
It will be observed that the designs shown in Fig. 1, a Sumerian impression pieced from fragments of clay, and Plate II, 1, an Akkadian stone cylinder of about 2500 B.C., both represent the conquest of a hydra-like monster. The impression has a serpent, two of whose seven heads have already been severed by a crudely-rendered man or god who holds a head in either hand, the stumps being visible above the living heads which still menace him. The scene is placed between friezes of scorpions, among whom is a single-headed snake, while a dragon with scorpion-tail stands behind the hydra, a participant, it may be, in the contest. An almost obliterated inscription in pre-Akkadian signs throws no light on the artist's intention.