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The mušḫuššu (𒈲𒄭𒄊; formerly also read as sirrušu, sirrush) or Mushkhushshu (pronounced "Mush·khush·shu"), is a creature from ancient Mesopotamian mythology. A mythological hybrid, it is a scaly animal with hind legs resembling the talons of an eagle, lion-like forelimbs, a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snake-like tongue, and a crest. The mušḫuššu most famously appears on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, dating to the sixth century BC.
The form mušḫuššu is the Akkadian nominative of the Sumerian 𒈲𒄭𒄊 MUŠ.ḪUS, "reddish snake", sometimes also translated as "fierce snake". One author, possibly following others, translates it as "splendor serpent" (𒈲 MUŠ is the Sumerian term for "serpent". The reading sir-ruššu is due to a mistransliteration in early Assyriology.
The constellation Hydra was known in Babylonian astronomical texts as Bašmu, "the Serpent" (𒀯𒈲, MUL.dMUŠ). It was depicted as having the torso of a fish, a tail of a snake, the fore paws of a lion, the hind legs of an eagle, with wings, and with a head comparable to the mušḫuššu.
Depicting a real animal
Some, such as Willy Ley, believed the Mušḫuššu was a mythologized representation of a real animal, such as a Sivatherium. Other cryptozoologists, such as Robert Koldewey, believed the Mušḫuššu represented a real animal.
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- Bienkowski, Piotr; Millard, Alan Ralph (2000). Dictionary of the Ancient Near East. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-8122-3557-9.
- Wiggerman, F.A.M. (1 January 1997). "Transtigridian Snake Gods". In Finkel, I. L.; Geller, M. J. (eds.). Sumerian Gods and their Representations. Cuneiform Monographs. 7. Gronigen, Netherlands: Styx Publications. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-90-56-93005-9.
- E. Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen auf Babylonischen Tontafeln (1967) Plates IX-X
- The Excavations at Babylon
- Mysterious creatures: a guide to cryptozoology, Volume 1, George M. Eberhart, ABC-CLIO, 2002, p. 2003
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