Animals occupied a prominent place in ancient art across a number of civilisations and across a variety of media, including painting, pottery, and jewellery. Some animals were venerated, whilst others were sacrificed. Their depiction is thus endowed with significance in several contexts: in religious rituals, as mythical creatures, and as incarnations or symbols of gods and goddesses.
In Ancient Mesopotamian cultures, lions held important symbolic and religious meanings, and depictions of them have been recovered engraved in walls and modelled in round. In Sumerian religion, the goddess of love and war Ishtar was usually depicted on the back of two lionesses. Her Babylonian counterpart, Ishtar was also portrayed conducting a chariot drawn by seven lions. Lions were also associated with royalty, attested in numerous lion metaphors applied to the king in both Sumerian and Akkadian texts as well as in artistic evidence.