Votive cone (dedication nail) with cuneiform inscription of Išme-Dagān


Votive cone (dedication nail) with cuneiform inscription of Išme-Dagān
ca. 1953-1935 B.C.E
Clay foundational pegs are a cultural feature observed in many ancient Mesopotamian cultures. Such cones, found in the ruins of walls, temples, and building pillars, are often inscribed with cuneiform script to serve as a record of a structure’s construction. These pegs were typically produced in large quantities, the same design copied over and over and present in many locations of the same structure.

This nail was excavated alongside 15 others of the same design in 1985. It was removed from a wall surrounding a temple dedicated to the goddess Gula in the kingdom of Isin, located in what is now present-day Iraq. The inscription of the nail dedicates the wall to Išme-Dagān, who is understood to have been king of Isin between 1889 B.C.E. and 1871 B.C.E., as well as the god Enlil.

The following is an English translation of the dedication inscribed upon the nail:

"Išme-Dagān, mighty man, king of Isin, king of the four quarters, when he canceled the tribute of Nippur, the city beloved of the god Enlil, (and) relieved its men of military service, he built the great wall of Isin. The name of that wall is ‘Išme-Dagān is a great … beside the god Enlil."

The excavation was carried out by a team from the University of Munich. Immediately following the expedition, two of the cones were absorbed into Iraq Museum’s collection, one was purchased by Yale University, one entered a museum collection in central Germany, and the remaining 12 returned with the excavators to Munich.

In 1997, Lafayette College purchased the cone, alongside a cuneiform tablet, from Ohio-based artifacts dealer Bruce Ferrini. This purchase was carried out at the request of a professor who wished to use the artifact as a teaching material. The provenance of the cone between its excavation in Isin and its presence in the inventory of Ferrini is not currently known.

Such cuneiform artifacts are some of the oldest known preserved pieces of documented information.
Copyright Undetermined
Lafayette College, Special Collections and College Archives
Bibliographic Citation
Votive cone (dedication nail) with cuneiform inscription of Išme-Dagān, 1953-1935 B.C.E, Lafayette College Special Collections, Skillman Library

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