A formidable creature in early human history, lions were depicted in some of the oldest known Palaeolithic cave paintings. In Ancient Egypt the lioness-headed goddess Sekhmet (whose name itself can be translated as “The mighty and powerful one”) was seen as a fearsome hunter and protector of the pharaohs in warfare, as well as being associated with the sun and depended upon for natural cycles. As such, worship was widespread and many statues and amulets have been discovered in her likeness. In other cultures, lions are also equated with great power and dignity, and are thus often used to represent royal authority or heroism. Famously, the only surviving piece of Mycenaean sculpture is the Lion Gate of the citadel at Mycenae, which (in addition to similar images found at Knossos) indicates the great importance of this symbolism in very early Greek cultures. Additionally, lions were prominent motifs in the ancient art of China, Scythia, and Assyria.

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