Atop the famous stele containing Hammurabi’s Code is a depiction of Hammurabi and Shamash, the Sun god, who was also the Babylonian god of justice. The swirling headdress of Shamash in this image might seem merely decorative, but in fact it possesses a dynamic meaning.
At the back of Shamash’s head is an oval object that has no obvious purpose. It appears to be attached to the coiled shape of the headdress, as if it were the head of a serpent. But why would Shamash be wearing a serpent on his head?
To answer this question, one must become aware of the compelling new evidence for and reinterpretation of the Venus theory of Immanuel Velikovsky. We now know that, although he made plenty of pioneer’s mistakes, Velikovsky was wonderfully right when he wrote in his book Worlds in Collision1 that Venus repeatedly approached Earth as a comet during the Bronze Age, and their gravitational interaction caused devastation throughout the world. We now know that Venus had been pulled by Jupiter’s gravity from the outer solar system shortly before 2525 BC.
Tidal heating from Jupiter’s gravity turned Venus into a molten, ovoid comet. Some Venus effigies depicted it as a serpent with a long tail; the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio showed the serpent with an egg (an oval) in its mouth. In the case of Shamash’s headdress, it appears that the Babylonians thought of Venus as a companion to the Sun that closely tracked it as an inner planet. Thus Hammurabi’s artist ingeniously depicted Venus as extending from the back of Shamash’s neck up into his coiling headdress. Evidently, Hammurabi or the artist wanted to ensure that the dreaded Comet Venus received due respect. A similar notion of Venus as a serpent-like companion of the Sun appears in the Egyptian uraeus, where a cobra stands out from the headdress of a pharaoh or god.
This serpent embodiment of Venus serves as a third Mesopotamian representation of Venus. The Bull of Heaven (so named because of the twin tails of Venus, with the planet blocking the central portion from the Sun’s rays, and the tails resembling a bull’s horns) was the male version. The goddess Ishtar was the female one (the Sumerian goddess Inanna had originally been co-opted for this role).
In addition to providing yet another piece of newly interpreted evidence supporting the Venus theory, finding Comet Venus in Shamash’s headdress suggests that we can find other such evidence hidden in plain sight, if only we can manage to see things through the eyes of the ancients.
Kenneth J. Dillon is an historian who writes on science, medicine, and history. See the biosketch at About Us.