Mesopotamia is a historical region in the Middle East including most of today’s Iraq, and parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey. Its name is formed by the ancient Greek words ‘μέσος’ (mesos), meaning between, and ποταμός (potamos), meaning river, indicating its geographical location in the fertile valley between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. It is part of the Fertile Crescent, an area often referred to as the cradle of civilization for the number of innovations and early civilizations that proliferated in the region. Historically important centres in Mesopotamia included Uruk, Ur, Nippur, Nineveh, and Babylon.
Depictions of animals, rendered in both naturalistic and abstract manners, are frequent in the art of the ancient Near East, reflecting the importance of human-animal interactions in the area. Images of domesticated animals, such as this piece, could have had protective functions, used to communicate ideas of fertility, and enhance ritual activities. Animals common to the diet of Near Eastern populations were sacrificed to the local gods. Votive sculptures in the form of animal figurines could have been used as offerings replacing the ritual of animal sacrifice.