The typical Egyptian symbol from the lintel of a Theban temple of fifteenth century B.C.

A Persian variant.

An even more conventionalized Babylonian form.

Two Central American (Maya) lintels.

In the upper one (from Ococingo) the reversal of the two wings has necessitated a reinterpretation of the conventionalized head ( C ) and tail ( T ) of the Cobra in the original Egyptian design. (The latter is taken form Dr.A.P. Maudslay’s representation of what he calls the serpent-bird from the wooden lintel of a temple at Tikal).

From comparative studies of Maya art, Dr. Maudslay arrived at the conclusion that the geometrical design above, and including the tail ( T ), represents a serpent’s head upside down – without the jaw.

By comparison with Indonesian designs, the writer arrived at the same conclusion. The loss of the jaw in the conventionalization of the serpent occurred in India and was emphasized in Java (Fig.49), and in that form adopted in America.

From Human History by G. Elliot Smith