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Nail of Gudea
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Nail of Gudea

Description Conservation Provenance Inscription Credit
Description The impressed cuneiform characters, which are well-spaced in the horizontal registers on the shaft of this votive nail, record in Sumerian the building of a temple to Gatumdu, a mother goddess local to Lagash, by Gudea, ensi of Lagash. The text indicates that the temple was built in an area here translated as the “Holy City,” but this was probably a precinct of or another name for the city of Lagash itself. Gudea, who ordered the building of the temple, ruled over the city-state of Lagash (in southern Iraq) in the second half of the 22nd century BCE (ca. 2144-2124 BCE). Fewer than one hundred examples of this text are known, appearing on nails and bricks, and the Walters Art Museum has two of those examples (this nail and 48.1461). Clay cones and nails were inscribed in the name of a ruler of a Mesopotamian city-state to commemorate an act of building or rebuilding, often of a temple for a specific deity. Deposited in the walls or under the foundations of these structures, the words of the texts were directed at the gods but would be found by later restorers.
Date Description Narrative
Provenance Edgar J. Banks, Alpine, New Jersey, [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1929 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Translation from composite text of Cuneiform Digital Library RIME 3/] For Gatumdu, / the mother of Lagash, / his mistress, / Gudea, / ruler / of Lagash, / the ‘dog’ of Gatumdu, / her house of the Holy City / he built for her. []
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1929

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ca. 2144-2124 BCE (Lagash II; Ur III)
baked clay, impressed
Accession Number
H: 6 13/16 × Diam: 2 1/2 in. (17.3 × 6.4 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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