Clay nail

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One of the oldest diplomatic documents known, by King Entemena, c 2400 BC.

Used by Sumerians and other Mesopotamian cultures beginning in the third millennium BC, clay nails, also referred to as dedication or foundation nails, cones, or pegs, were cone-shaped nails made of clay, inscribed with cuneiform, baked, and stuck into the mud-brick walls to serve as evidence that the temple or building was the divine property of the god to whom it was dedicated.[1]

Additionally, uninscribed clay cones painted in different colors were used by Sumerians to create decorative mosaic patterns on walls and pillars of buildings, which also offered some protection against weathering.[2]

The similar funerary cones of ancient Egypt used the cone base as the major writing surface.

Foundation nail examples[edit]

Foundation nail of the E-ninnu.

As some of the oldest 'documents' in history, the sponsor, responsible for the construction, or dedication of a work, some of the oldest histories, and/or intrigues are recorded. (Boasting sometimes led to historical inaccuracies, or mistatements of facts.)

King Entemena[edit]

King Entemena's nail is a prime example of a clay nail in excellent condition, as well as a detailed story. He was king of Lagash towards the late-middle of the 3rd millennium BC.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edward Chiera (1938). George G. Cameron, ed. They Wrote on Clay. Babylonian Tablets Speak Today. University of Chicago Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-226-10425-6. 
  2. ^ "Cone mosaic excavated at the "Columned Hall," Uruk, Mesopotamia". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved March 30, 2014.