Old Babylonian Plaque with Dog Fighting Scene

£ 1,000.00

A finely moulded Old Babylonian earthenware plaque, featuring a dynamic relief of two rearing dogs locked in a fight, both on leashes held by attendants in kilts and headdresses. The floppy ears and curled tails identify the dogs as ancient mastiffs, which were favoured by the Babylonians for their ferocity as well as their loyalty. Although the dogs are depicted brawling, their owners restrain them both, with Babylonian culture providing the oldest evidence of dog collars and name tags. The reverse of the plaque in unworked, suggesting it may have been attached to the wall of a temple or shrine, possibly as a devotional object, or part of a wider narrative.

Date: Circa 2nd to mid 1st millennium BC
Period: Old Babylonian
Provenance: From an important collection, London, UK, 1970-1999; thence by descent.
Condition: Very fine. Some surface encrustations.
Product Code: NES-60
Category: Tags: ,

Earthenware plaques, such as this fine example, were very common in Ancient Mesopotamia, being excavated not only in temples but also in private homes, as part of domestic shrines. It was believed that such plaques could help channel protective magic powers in favour of the owner, and so decorative motifs included depictions of rulers, priests, zoomorphic creatures and deities. Dogs feature frequently in Babylonian material culture, either in cuneiform tablets relating to orders of dog food, cylinder seals, or devotional statues dedicated to the goddess of healing Gula, to whom the animal was sacred. Some statues record the name of these ancient pets, such as ‘loud is his bark’ and ‘catcher of the enemy’.

To discover more about Ancient Mesopotamian civilisations, please visit our relevant post: Civilisations of the Ancient Near East.


Dimensions W 9.5 cm

Near East (Western Asiatic)



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