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Lot 0041B
Ancient Near East, Mesopotamia, reign of Gudea of Lagash, ca. 2144 to 2124 BCE. A fine pair of hand-built terracotta foundation cones with roughly-three-quarters of their conical bodies wrapped in identical, faded cuneiform text. The body of each cone tapers to a rounded tip and has a wide, discoid head on the other end. Each cone bears thirteen columns of inscribed cuneiform text made by impressing a sharpened reed or stick into the still wet clay just before undergoing the kilning process. Clay nails like these are also referred to as dedication pegs or funerary pegs; they were inscribed, baked, and stuck into walls made of mud-brick to mark ownership either by a god or a ruler. These dedications sometimes include stories or boasts about the rulers they describe and are some of our earliest sources of written royal history. Size of largest: 2.375" W x 4.8" H (6 cm x 12.2 cm).

These cones were created during the reign of Gudea of Lagash. When translated, they roughly read, "Gudea, Ensi (ruler) of Lagash, produced resplendently everything appropriate for Ningirsu, Warrior of Enlil, and built and restored his E-ninnu (Ningirsu's temple), the bright Imdugud ("heavy wind") bird."

For a similar example and credit for the translation of these foundation cones, please see the Detroit Institute of Arts, accession number 1983.34: https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/foundation-cone-gudea-king-lagash-55609

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Richard Wagner collection, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1960s

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Both cones have surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age and use, minor nicks to discoid heads, bodies, and tips, with light encrustations, and fading to some inscribed cuneiform characters. One cone has loss to portion of head. Nice earthen deposits throughout.

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

Lot of 2 Translated Mesopotamian Clay Foundation Cones

Estimate $2,500 - $3,500Oct 11, 2018