The inscription is very difficult to read. A few words can be made out, enough to indicate that it is in Persian, but not much more:
"This that . became .. of . al-Din [is] . of al-Din . ibn Muhammad"
This is one of a number of related panels all with one end raised as if for a stair-riser. There are three in Paris, two in Haifa, two in Berlin and two in New York. These are extensively discussed by Eva Baer (Baer, E.: 'A Group of Seljuk Figural bas-relief' Oriens XX 1967, pp. 107-124). To these can be added four further examples, one in the David Collection (Folsach, K.V.: Islamic Art, The David Collection, Copenhagen 1990, no. 274), two sold in these Rooms 26 April 1994, lot 321 and 11 April 2000, lot 325 and one sold in our South Kensington salerooms, 18 January 2000, lot 924.
It has been suggested, not entirely convincingly, that they were designed as balustrades on a stairway due to the slightly raised section at one end. On many examples the carved decoration exists on both sides; it consists variously of lions portrayed in pairs, some with combined heads, lions in combat with bulls, scenes of the chase including small human figures, or exclusively geometric designs of interlaced stars and rosettes. All are carved, as here essentially on two planes, with slight alteration to the upper plane giving the carved contours. Our example has signs of having been embedded in earth or part of a building along two of the sides, a feature also found on a number of others. Ours is however larger than the majority of the group, with carving that is considerably better worked than in most examples, with real shallow relief rather than the two-plane carving on most. The elements however remain the same, including the layout of the design and the drawing of much of the floral decoration.
Many of the stones have been found in the region of Hamadan in North West Persia. The city was the capital of the Seljuk empire from about 1150 to 1224 when it was overcome by the Mongols. The only dated example is that in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is inscribed with the name of the donor and that of the mason, together with the date of AH 703/1304-4 AD (Dimand, M.S.: A Handbook of Muhammadan Art, 2nd.ed. New York 1947, fig. 589).