After the collapse of the Akkadian Empire and a brief period of decentralized rule, a dynasty ruling from the southern Mesopotamian city of Ur took over a large area of Mesopotamia, including areas in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, and ruled for about one hundred years (2100–2000 B.C.). During this period, a number of minor rulers maintained their independence at the margins of the empire. Among them were the kingdoms of Urkish and Nawar in northern Mesopotamia, a Hurrian-speaking area.
Based on its inscription, this bronze foundation peg in the form of a snarling lion almost certainly comes from the city of Urkish, modern Tell Mozan. On a very similar piece now in the Louvre, the lion holds under its paws a white stone tablet with an inscription that names the temple of the god Nergal. Pegs of this and other forms were placed in foundation deposits under temple walls as a dedication to the god. Their appearance in northern Mesopotamia represents the adoption of a practice from the south.
Sometime before 1948, seen by André Parrot at Parisian dealer's (André Parrot and Jean Nougayrol, "Un document de fondation Hurrite", Revue d'Assyriologie et d'archéologie Orientale, XLII, 1948, p. 2); acquired by the Museum in 1948, purchased from Charles L. Morley, New York.
“Small Sculptures in Bronze,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 6, 1950–January 31, 1951.
“Expedition into the Past: Al-Hiba,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 16, 1972–January 21, 1973.
“The Art of Sumer and Akkad: Mesopotamia and Iran in the Third Millennium B.C.,” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 3–May 27, 1973.
“The Book and the Spade (Biblical Archaeological Exhibition),” University of Wisconsin, Madison, April 13–May 4, 1975.
“Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 8–August 17, 2003.
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Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, p. 29, fig. 35.
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Lapérouse, Jean-François. 2003. "Foundation pegs." In Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, with Ronald Wallenfels. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 153b, pp. 222-223.
Buccellati, Giorgio and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati. 2009. "The Great Temple Terrace at Urkesh and the Lions of Tish-atal." In General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 11/2: in Honor of David I. Owen on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday October 28, 2005, edited by Gernot Wilhelm. Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi and the Hurrians, Volume 18. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, p. 33.
Rakic, Yelena ed. 2010. Discovering the Art of the Ancient Near East: Archaeological Excavations Supported by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931–2010. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 68 (1), Summer 2010, p. 44.
Benzel, Kim, Sarah B. Graff, Yelena Rakic, and Edith W. Watts. 2010. Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, image 9, pp. 68-69.
Bahrani, Zainab. 2014. The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity. London: Reaktion, p. 95.