Urkesh Lion

Near Eastern (Akkadian)

replica: from the Louvre, Paris

gift of: the Nasser Family

date of the original: 21st century BC (Empire of Ur III)

provenance of the original: Tell Mozan (Northeastern Syria); now in the Louvre, Paris

description: Lion perched on tablet. Resin replica; copper and limestone original. Lion: height 12 cm, width 8.5 cm, depth 3 cm. Tablet: height 10 cm, width 8 cm, depth 3 cm.

Foundation pegs, like this replica of the Urkesh Lion from the temple of Nergal (god of the underworld), were planted in temple foundations for protection. They served as offerings and were inscribed with cuneiform curses (the text on the Urkesh Lion’s tablet is the oldest inscription in the Hurrian language) which warded the temple from harm and desecration.

An approximate translation of the curse:
“Tishatal, [Endan] king of Urkesh, has built a temple for the god Nergal. May the god Nubadag protect this temple. May Nubadag destroy whomsoever seeks to destroy [it]; may his god not listen to his prayers. May the Lady of Nagar, [the sun god] Shimiga, and the god of the storm [curse 10,000 times whomsoever might seek to destroy it].”