The Apkallu - Fish And Bird Hybrid Creature In Ancient Mesopotamian Art

The Apkallu – Fish And Bird Hybrid Creature In Ancient Mesopotamian Art

A notable aspect of Mesopotamian art, particularly the ones created during the Neo-Assyrian era in the first half of the first millennium BCE, depicts certain bizarre, fish-and-bird-man hybrids that are seen engaging in religious ceremonies. Large-scale relief carvings of these supernatural entities were used to embellish the palaces wall of the Assyrian rulers. These strange beings have also left behind a tonne of clay figures and cylinder seal impressions that have been found. Who were they, though? And why did the royal architecture give them such a prominent place?

The hybrid fish-men who had come to Babylon in pre-diluvian periods and served as the advisors to the 10 kings who ruled before the flood were referred to in the cuneiform inscriptions as “Apkallu,” which means “sage” or “wise.” The Seven Sages was another name for the seven Apkallu. One by one, they had risen from the Erythrean sea (Indian Ocean) and disseminated to the populace all the laws of civilization.

The Apkallu - Fish And Bird Hybrid Creature In Ancient Mesopotamian Art
14th Century BCE Relief depicting a Fish Man

The Chaldean astrologer Berossus, a priest at the temple of Bel and a contemporary of Alexander, wrote about the Apkallu in a piece of literature called Babyloniaca(c.281 BCE). According to him, the first of the Apkallu to arrive in prehistoric times was known as Uanna (Akkadian) or Oannes (Greek). At that time, a huge crowd lived in Babylon, and they didn’t have any rules. Alulim, the very first king on the Sumerian King List, began his reign in the first year.

“There made its appearance, from a part of the Erythraean Sea which bordered upon Babylonia, an animal endowed with reason, who was called Oannes. The whole body of the animal was like that of a fish; and had under a fish’s head another head, and also feet below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish’s tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day. This being in the day-time used to converse with men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect fruits; in short, he instructed them in everything which could tend to soften manners and humanize mankind. From that time, so universal were his instructions, nothing material has been added by way of improvement. When the sun set, it was the custom of this being to plunge again into the sea, and abide all night in the deep; for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which Berossus promises to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings.”

It is plainly evident from reading this incredible account by Berossus that Apkallu were more than just priests wearing cloaks made of fish skin; they were aquatic beings who possessed traits shared by both humans and fish. They were referred to as “Creatures of the Apsu” in the cuneiform literature, where Apsu denoted the “sea of freshwater” beneath the Earth or the underground aquifers. They were seen coming from the Erythraen sea, suggesting that there are tubes and passages connecting the aquifers with seas, rivers, and oceans.

Enki (Ea) flanked by a pair of fish-apkallus. Carving on a basalt water basin from Assur, Iraq, 7th century BCE.
Enki (Ea) flanked by a pair of fish-apkallus. Carving on a basalt water basin from Assur, Iraq, 7th century BCE.

The God Ea (Enki), the King of the Apsu and the guardian of humanity, sent the Apkallu. The God Ea was associated with knowledge, culture, water, fertility, arts, and magic. The following verses concerning the Apkallu are taken from the old Babylonian Epic of Erra.

“Where are the seven Apkallu of the apsu, the pure puradu-fishes,
Who are perfect in lofty wisdom like Ea’s, their lord,
Who can make my body holy?” (Poem of Erra; Tablet 2, line 162)

The Apkallu were frequently referred to as “puradu-fishes” (i.e., carp), confirming that they were indeed imagined as a peculiar hybrid of humans and fish. The names of the seven Apkallu are listed within one of the Bit Meseri incantations. They are praised for their power to “manage the schemes and plans made for heaven and earth” and are jointly referred to as the “Pure Parade-fishes of the sea.”

U-Anna, who accomplishes the plans of heaven and earth,
U-Anne-dugga, who is endowed with comprehensive understanding,
Enmedugga, for whom a good destiny has been decreed,
Enmegalamma, who was born in a house,
Enmebulugga, who grew up in pasture land,
An-Enlilda, the conjurer of the city of Eridu,
Utuabzu, who ascended to heaven,
the pure puradu-fishes, the puradu-fishes of the sea, the seven of them, the Seven Sages, who have originated in the river, who control the plans of heaven and earth.”

The nickname An-Enlilda, “The Conjurer of the City of Eridu,” which refers to the Apkallu, indicates that they were also excellent architects. The establishment of the seven ancient Sumerian towns of Eridu, Ur, Nippur, Kullab, Kesh, Lagash, and Shuruppak is credited to the Seven Sages. The 7 Sages had also outlined Uruk’s strategy, in accordance with the Gilgamesh Epic. Let’s take a moment to think about this.

According to legend, the Apkallu were a race of hybrid Fish-men who lived in “Apsu” and arose from the ocean. They transmitted all of civilization’s knowledge and skills to the inhabitants of the prehistoric era while possessing incredible intelligence and power. Is this a true account of our distant past, or has it been embellished by a creative imagination? Could it be that, in the middle of the underground aquifers, a subterranean realm inhabited by strange beings exists beneath the surface of the Earth? What do we know about the aquifers’ ecology? Probably nothing.

We have enormous freshwater reservoirs beneath us that go down 30,000 feet. These aquifers hold close to 30% of the planet’s entire freshwater supply, with the remaining 40% frozen in glaciers. The underground aquifers mirror the “many levels of the underworld” that so many prehistoric societies spoke of because they have numerous vertical levels divided by layers of permeable rock. There is a watery, tier-like underworld of mythology, in fact. Freshwater for rivers, lakes, and other waterbodies comes from underground aquifers, and a sophisticated network of tunnels connects them all.

How can we discount these ancient reports as myths without searching the aquifers and, extra broadly, the subsurface topography of our globe for indications of life? Ancient myths describe a land below the Earth’s surface that is always lovely and inhabited by superhuman beings. According to legend, this otherworldly dimension can be reached through caves hidden beneath mountains, rivers, and seas that are carefully concealed and guarded to keep out trespassers. Seven gates guard the underworld according to Mesopotamian mythology.

In the Gilgamesh Epic, Gilgamesh enters a tunnel at the base of Mount Mashu’s twin peaks to go to the underworld. Before arriving in the Gardens of the Divine beings, a paradise full of jewel-laden trees, he walks for twelve hours in total darkness. Native American tribes including the Hopi, Navajo, Iroquois, and Sioux, among others, think that their forebears left a subterranean world and came to the surface via caverns and tunnels. Some of the upright Hopi were transferred to safe places in the underground realm whenever the Hopi Supreme Creator Sotuknang demolished the planet.

In Irish mythology, portals concealed under mounds or tumuli allowed access to the underworld Annwyn, which was home to fairies and demons. Greeks created temples in caves because they thought certain caverns had entrances to the underworld. The Mayans believed that caverns and cenotes were entrances to their nine-level underwater underworld. There are seven underground locales in Indian mythology, collectively known as Patala or Naga-Loka.

These are the worlds of the heavenly human-serpent hybrids known as Nagas, as well as other paranormal creatures including Rakshashas (giants), Yakshas (dwarves), and various hybrid creatures that are all offspring of the Seven Sages of Vedic lore. The Nagas are reported to reside in lovely subterranean regions with trees, lakes, rivers, and dazzling mansions embellished with priceless gems. Although the sun and moon are not visible there, the jewels adorning the hoods and bodies of the Nagas give out an effulgence that brightens the area. This effulgence may be a reference to bio-luminescence.

Sculptures of Nagas in Indian Temples
Sculptures of Nagas in Indian Temples
Celebration of Nag Panchami in India
Celebration of Nag Panchami in India

Exploring underground aquifers for evidence of life using various sorts of remotely controlled underwater vehicles may be the need of the hour (ROV). We should have an open mind and allow the ancient people to speak for themselves till that time comes so that we can understand the truth of what they are attempting to communicate to us. Now, in addition to the human-fish hybrid sculptures, the walls of Assyrian palaces are decorated with numerous bird-headed figures, winged human figures, and cylinder seals. What do these beings represent is the question?


In the first millennium BCE, the Assyrians practiced apotropaic rituals to prevent the arrival of evil, especially in the form of contagious diseases, into a person’s home. The bird-headed beings were also referred to as the “Seven Sages” and “creatures of the Apsu” in the incantations, Wiggerman writes in Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. The family members were required to create a group of clay figurines of the 7 fish-Apkallu, the seven bird-Apkallu, as well as other Gods and monsters. These sets of figurines were buried under the floor of the house in various locations after the rituals, which included ritualistic cleansing and incantations, were finished in order to drive out evil and stop it from entering the dwelling.

Figurines of Apkallu to be worshipped.
Figurines of Apkallu to be worshipped.

Consequently, the Apkallu were portrayed as both human-fish and human-bird hybrids. Since no justifications are given in the texts, it is unclear why those representations were used. Maybe the Apkallu were shape-shifters and, when necessary, could take on the form of a human-bird hybrid? Vasistha and Vishwamitra, two members of the Seven Sages, are said to have engaged in a protracted battle after changing into birds, according to an Indian tale. This could be a possible explanation for the bird-headed Apkallu because the idea of shapeshifting was extremely widespread in the body of ancient legends.

The human figures with wings are simpler to describe. According to the Epic of Erra, the storm deity Marduk had exiled the Apkallu to the Apsu following the Flood. Ummanus, human sages, were afterward tasked with purifying Marduk’s sanctuary. Ummanus, who succeeded the Apkallu after the flood, is represented by the winged human beings. Given that the Ummanus have wings and a “horned crown,” which was a symbol of divinity in ancient Mesopotamia, it is most likely that they were demi-Gods who were created when the Gods and humans united.

The Apkallu and Ummanu of Mesopotamia. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra.
The Apkallu and Ummanu of Mesopotamia. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra.

The Apkallu are typically depicted holding a banduddu, or “ritual bucket,” in their left hand. The Apkallu sprinkle holy water from this bucket with a mullilu, a “pine cone,” which they carry in their right hand. This is a purifying ritual that may have been carried out to promote fertility, drive out demons, treat illnesses, etc. What “holy water” actually is and how it could have such power may be questions that people have. We are aware that it takes a long time for water to gradually reach the aquifers’ lowest levels.

As a result, this water not only gets rid of contaminants but also picks up a lot of minerals as it descends, giving it a lot of potentials. It may be even more powerful because the ritual scriptures state that the Apkallu sprinkling the water did so while speaking sacred incantations. Scientific studies have demonstrated that sound waves can speed up chemical interactions between liquid and air by boosting the concentrations of dissolved gases like oxygen. Research by Japanese scientist and healer Masahiro Emoto has revealed that sound waves and music can change the crystalline structure of ice.

Both the bucket and the Pine could be clearly seen in the picture.
Both the bucket and the Pine could be clearly seen in the picture.

Interestingly, the ritual bucket theme is depicted on a monolithic, T-shaped pillar at the ancient excavation of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, in which the earliest stratum of the monument has been dated to c.9000 BCE – a few decades after the end of the last Ice Age. One of the T-shaped columns features a row of buckets with their tops carved out in relief that resembles the buckets the Apkallu is holding. The sculpture of a vulture grasping a circular item is located directly behind the buckets. This could be a bird-Apkallu using a pine cone to sprinkle holy water on the land to make it fertile.

There is a possibility that the people who constructed Gobekli Tepe saw the Apkallu while they went about their cleansing rituals circa 9000 BCE. The learning of the Apkallu appears to have stretched into the antediluvian era, which is precisely what the Sumerian stories tell us, as Gobekli Tepe was constructed a few decades after the end of the Younger Dryas period (during which a global flood may have been caused by comet impacts). In addition to the ritual bucket, the Apkallu may hold a rosary, a bouquet of flowers, or a scepter in their left hand.

These artifacts demonstrate the Apkallu’s functions as royal priests and sages to the monarchs. Evidently, many religions still practice the forms of worship that the Apkallu established at the very beginning of civilization. For instance, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus still utilize rosary beads as tools for meditation. While Hindus sprinkle “amrita” or “Shanti Jal,” holy water, on the audience for blessings and purification, church priests sprinkle holy water during baptism. According to some experts, the miter, a tall cap with such a front and a rear half sewed at the sides, worn by Catholic priests may represent the fishhead above the Apkallu’s head.

The Apkallu had conveyed to the Babylonians the entire body of understanding in every area of knowledge they knew, as Berossus had said. Due to the Apkallu’s globe travels, while on a mission to spread the laws of civilization, this knowledge and ritual practices have spread throughout the planet.

Surprising similarities between the two. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra
Surprising similarities between the two.
Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra

The Dogon Tribe of Mali in West Africa claims that the Nommo, amphibious fish-men from the Sirius star system, visited them thousands of years ago and taught them numerous talents. Like the Apkallu, the Nommo possessed a human-like upper torso and a fish-like lower body. They came on a vessel, followed by fire and thunder, from the skies. The Nommo needed a watery habitat to survive, so when they first arrived on our planet, they excavated a water reservoir and dove in. The Dogons address them as their “Teachers” and “Masters of Water.” According to oral legend, the seven gigantic Miigis entities came out of the sea while the Anishinaabe people from North America lived along the Atlantic Ocean coast.

The Waabanakiing peoples were taught the Mide way of life by them. Six of the seven great Miigis creatures persisted and created the odoodeman (clans) for the eastern peoples. The Wandjinas are mighty spirit creatures that the Aboriginal Australians of the Kimberley region of northwest Australia believe brought their people’s laws, culture, and language when they descended from the Milky Way.

They made the Earth and everything that lives there. The Wandjinas visited a close-to-water hole after imparting all the knowledge necessary to the Aboriginals. The water source connected to the rock paintings is said to contain them at its bottom. As mighty Rain Makers spirits, they have control over the clouds and rains and use floods, lightning, and cyclones to punish lawbreakers. It’s interesting to note that the phrase “Wandjinas” incorporates the word “jeans,” which is connected to the terms “djinn,” “jinn,” or “genie,” and denotes the mysterious spirits that have the power to influence people. When the winged living thing sages of Assyrian art (the Ummanus) were originally found, researchers really referred to them as “winged genies.”

Wandjinnas Art
Wandjinnas Art

The Seven Sages are most frequently mentioned in India, outside of Mesopotamia. The 7 Sages were collectively referred to as the Saptarishis in the Vedic tradition (Sapta = Seven; Rishis = Sages). They were referred to as the “lords of creation” and the “mind-born sons of Brahma” (Manasputra and Prajapati’s). They are typically listed as Marici, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasistha in the scriptures. According to the epic narrative, the Saptarsis served as Iksvaku’s tutors and priests as well as those of his successors during the Golden Age’s solar kingdom. Human lineages were founded by the divine Saptarsis, who succeeded in assuming the role of Saptarsis from earlier generations. As a result, the Vedic tradition is similar to that of Mesopotamia, where divinely derived antediluvian Apkallus was succeeded by a human Ummanus in the post-diluvian era. According to the Rig Veda, “the Seven Godlike Rishis were skilled in ritual, hymns, and laws.” Vasistha is referred to as the “knower of both earth and heaven” in a Vedic song.

The Saptrishis escaping the Universal Flood.
The Saptrishis escaping the Universal Flood.

“The four ancient forefathers and the seven great sages were born from my intellect and got my strength. All of the creatures in this world descended from them. The seven enlightened sages are referred to in the Mahabharata as “the Seven Bright-Crested Ones: by their unified opinion there came into being what is considered the highest sastra (i.e. sacred scriptures)”.

Bhagavad Gita quotes Lord Krishna

In addition, they were “teachers of the knowledge of moksha (liberation) and the “first to know the Veda, who have been created as educators of the Veda.” In essence, the Seven Sages were responsible for compiling and disseminating the entirety of the Vedic knowledge that the ancient Indians possessed in fields like yoga, medicine, astrology, armament, architecture, music, language, and grammar, among others.

However, the Vedic texts make it clear that the 7 Sages were not of this earth. They were associated by Vedic astronomers with the seven bright stars of the Great Bear asterism (Ursa Major constellation). They were recognized as follows: Alkaid, Atri-Megrez, Angiras-Alioth, Pulastya-Phecda, Pulaha-Merak, Kratu-Dubhe, and Vasistha-Mizar all starred with Marici as their leading lady.

According to legend, the Saptarishis arrive on earth during the Satya Yuga (Golden Age) and continue to live there for a while until the Treta Yuga (Silver Age), during which time they re-promulgate the Vedas and create lineages. The tradition is continued by their human offspring till the conclusion of the Dwapara Yuga (Bronze Age). The Vedic knowledge and Rishi heritage are gradually lost during the Kali Yuga (Iron Age), which is the current era of ignorance and violence.

After the Kali Yuga will be over, the Seven Sages return to Earth to create dharma and re-promulgate the Vedas. These narratives make it clear that our predecessors believed the Seven Sages, who were portrayed as human-fish or human-bird hybrids, were extra-terrestrial beings who had visited our planet. There is no debate that these were extra-terrestrial beings, regardless of whether their precise origin was the Sirius star system, the Great Bear constellations, or some other stellar system in the Milky Way.

Simply put, they were aliens, which is why they appeared so strange! They could have come with the intention of making sure that our planetary functions as a successful “school” for the development of consciousness. Ancient wisdom teachings claim that souls reincarnate on Earth multiple times and gradually rid their minds of egoic ideas, goals, and routines until they become conscious of their divine essence.

Because of this, the Seven Sages not only taught humanity how to live a civilized existence but also provided a plethora of esoteric knowledge to aid in our ascent. It’s possible that the Apkallu created their abode in the freshwater aquifers beneath the Earth because that environment suited their “foreign” physiology. According to recent scientific findings, underground life might be the most prevalent type of life in other worlds, in the Known Universe, and beyond. Living on the surface can be the exception rather than the rule. Geological proof of a “planet-wide groundwater system” on Mars was discovered in 2019 by scientists.

Europa's underground water
Europa’s underground water

Pluto and Europa, the fourth biggest of Jupiter’s 67 known moons, both have an underlying ocean beneath their thick, icy shells. Because they are protected from harsh temperatures and high-energy radiation, these underground oceans might serve as incubators for life. The example of Europa is particularly intriguing since water from its subterranean ocean occasionally bubbles to the icy surface. Oceanic life on Europa is more likely to exist because of the movement of chemicals and energy between the ocean’s surface and its interior. According to Richard Greenberg of the University of Arizona in Tucson, there could potentially be at least three million tonnes of fish-like animals that could survive and thrive on Europa.

If alien fish can live in the subterranean oceans of other planets, then why not the fish-man hybrids like the Apkallu? Wouldn’t such beings from that other planet or stellar systems like to construct their residence in a setting resembling their home galaxy, planet, or star if they were to come on Earth, which in this instance would be the Earth’s underground water reserves? Coming here by comets would be the simplest route from some other planetary or star system.

The Apkallu may have discovered how to manipulate comets’ trajectories and use them for interstellar travel because they possessed supernatural knowledge and abilities. Oumuamua, the first interstellar space rock, rocketed away from the Sun like a comet in 2017 as it passed the Solar System in a hyperbolic orbit. The importance of this discovery was quickly recognized by Astrophysicist Chandra Wickramasinghe, who together with Sir Fred Hoyle had put forth the cometary panspermia idea. He co-authored an article with his colleagues in which they said that:

“the theory that comets and cometary bodies are the means of transport for biology throughout the galaxy has been extensively discussed by Hoyle, Wickramasinghe and their many collaborators for over nearly 4 decades…the discovery of our first “visitor” on a hyperbolic orbit confirms our inextricable connection with life that may exist in distant planetary systems.”

Evidently, nothing in the archaeological evidence and the oral traditions of the Seven Sages is improbable when we examine them from a logical standpoint, taking into consideration our current understanding of the universe. It might be in opposition to our preconditioned ways of thinking, which are founded on the things we have observed or heard over the past few millennia.

While we are currently living in the dark period of Kali, ancient accounts also tell that these supernatural beings stay away from contact with people. But every now and then, we hear tales of people who have experienced weird encounters with enigmatic beings, which might suggest that the underground creatures the Seven Sages birthed are slowly awakening after millennia of hibernation. We might be living in a time when some of history’s most puzzling secrets, which have been consigned to mythology, emerge from hiding and come to light.

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