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Nail of Gudea
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Nail of Gudea

Description Provenance Inscription Credit
Description The deeply 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 in Girsu (modern Tell Telloh) for Nindara, a deity local to Lagash, by Gudea, ensi of Lagash. Girsu was an important religious and civic center in the 3rd millennium BCE. Gudea ruled over the city-state of Lagash (in southern Iraq) in the second half of the 22nd century BCE (ca. 2144-2124 BCE). Over one hundred examples of this text are known, appearing on clay nails as well as bricks. 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.
Provenance Edgar J. Banks, Bagdad [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1929, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Translation from composite text of Cuneiform Digital Library RIME 3/] For Nindara, / the powerful king, / his master, / Gudea, / ruler / of Lagash, / his Girsu temple / he built for him. []
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1929

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ca. 2144-2124 BCE (Lagash II; Ur III [Neo-Sumerian])
baked clay, impressed
Accession Number
Body: H: 6 5/16 × Diam: 1 3/4 in. (16 × 4.5 cm) Head: Diam: 2 11/16 in. (6.85 cm) Overall:H: 6 3/16 × Diam: 2 11/16 in. (15.7 × 6.9 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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