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What is a Ziggurat?
A ziggurat is a very ancient and massive building structure of a particular shape that served as part of a temple complex in the various local religions of Mesopotamia and the flat highlands of what is now western Iran. Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria are known to have about 25 ziggurats, evenly divided among them.
The shape of a ziggurat makes it clearly identifiable: a roughly square platform base with sides that recede inward as the structure rises, and a flat top presumed to have supported some form of a shrine. Sun-baked bricks form the core of a ziggurat, with fire-baked bricks forming the outer faces. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids, a ziggurat was a solid structure with no internal chambers. An external staircase or spiral ramp provided access to the top platform.
The word ziggurat is from an extinct Semitic language, and derives from a verb that means "to build on a flat space."
The handful of ziggurats still visible are all in various states of ruin, but based on the dimensions of their bases, it is believed that they may have been as much as 150 ft. high. It is likely that the terraced sides were planted with shrubs and flowering plants, and many scholars believe that the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon was a ziggurat structure.
Tower of Babel (Part 3) What was the Tower?
In an article from Answers Magazine, the question was asked “what did the Tower look like?” with the answer stating, “Studying the oldest buildings from the area, archaeologists assume the Tower of Babel looked like a ziggurat. But we can’t just study later buildings and calculate backward.” 1) Answers Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 2 April-June 2008, p. 29 This is accurate advice as archaeologists have assumed they found the Tower of Babel but in reality they have found the site that ziggurats have been built on top of many times over. Consider the Burj Khalifa which is the world’s largest building today.
According to the design architect, Adrian Smith, the triple lobed footprint of the building was inspired by the flower Hymenocallis.
The tower is composed of three elements arranged around a central core. As the tower rises from the flat desert base, setbacks occur at each element in a spiralling pattern, decreasing the cross section of the tower as it reaches toward the sky. 2) http://burj-khalifa.readabout.org/design-and-architecture/
The spiraling design is to reduce the impact of the wind effect at such a height. It is possible the artists that have depicted the Tower of Babel in a spiral form are correct. With the whole world in one location working together and with the longer life spans to gain knowledge and experience to accomplish this structure, our modern architectural technology may be finally as advanced as they were.
However, ziggurats could be a viable option. In fact, similar structures exist around the world built by cultures that are so far separated from each other that only by retaining this similar history could they carry the familiar architectural style. In the Middle East, some 30 of such structures are known with names that bare resemblance to that which Scripture expresses: “a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). A list of such names indicates the common thought: 3) John H. Walton, “Is there archaeological evidence of the Tower of Babel?” reprinted by permission from Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 : 155-75. List compiled H.C. Rawlinson, H.C. 1861 The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, v. 2. London: R.E. Bowler: 50: 1-23 a, b accessed at http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a021.html
Temple of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth (Babylon)
Temple of the Wielder of the 7 Decrees of Heaven and Earth (Borsippa)
[…] gigir (Nippur)
Temple of the Mountain Breeze (Nippur)
Temple of Mystery (Nippur)
Temple of the Stairway to Pure Heaven (Sippar)
Temple of the god Dadia (Akkad)
? (Dumuzi – ?)
Temple of the Admirable Throne/Sanctuary (Dumuzi – ?)
Temple of the Ziggurat, Exalted Dwelling Place (Kish)
Temple of the Exalted Mountain (Ehursagkalamma)
Temple of Exalted Splendor (Enlil – at Kish?)
Temple of the god Nanna (Kutha)
Temple of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth (Dilbat)
Temple which Links Heaven and Earth (Larsa)
Temple of the Giparu (Uruk)
Temple of the Ziggurat (Eridu)
It is well known that Mesopotamian ziggurats were typically given names demonstrating that they were intended to serve as “staircases” or “binding” locations between earth and heaven.” 4) “Was the Tower of Babel a Ziggurat?” https://katachriston.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/was-the-tower-of-babel-a-ziggurat/
Some skeptics have argued that the Hebrew word for Tower מִגְדָּל could not be an accurate description of a ziggurat. Henry Morris III writes, “The Hebrew word migdal is used 50 times in the Old Testament to describe everything from a castle for royalty to a guardhouse in the middle of a vineyard. Often it signifies some sort of military construction that was designed for defensive protection of a city.” 5) Henry Morris III, The Book of Beginnings: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teach Genesis, Vol. 2, Institute for Creation Research (Dallas TX, 2013) p. 134 Obviously there is a wide variation of use for the word.
The Sumerians and the Akkadians – The First Civilizations in the World
It is uncertain whether the Sumerians were native to Mesopotamia or if they migrated into the region from the east or south sometime after 4000 B.C.E. In any case, Semitic (Akkadian) elements in the earliest texts suggest an early mixing of ethnic groups. In the Uruk period, the population of Sumer was probably several hundred thousand, with some settlements large enough to be called cities (over 10,000 in population). The stepped temple platform (ziggurat) and cylinder seals so characteristic of Mesopotamian culture developed. The first known writing, a small limestone tablet, comes from Kish and is dated to c. 3500. At Uruk several hundred clay tablets have been found, most dating to c. 3200–3100. These, like the tablet from Kish, are too primitive to be read, but appear to be economic documents.
THE JEMDET NASR CULTURE (Early Bronze Age)
Tablets from Jemdet Nasr sites are clearly written in Sumerian, and almost all are economic texts. Bronze was first utilized in Mesopotamia and there is evidence of extensive overseas trade. Mesopotamian influence appeared in predynastic Upper Egypt, the so-called Mesopotamian Stimulation
EARLY DYNASTIC I
The Sumerian King List names eight antediluvian kings who reigned for tens of thousands of years, but it is not known if these names have any historical basis. The royal tombs of Ur contain the graves of Meskalamdug and Akalamdug, among others, which probably date to this period.
EARLY DYNASTIC II
According to the King Lists, the first dynasty after the Great Flood (recorded in the Gilgamesh Epic) was the 1st Dynasty of Kish. The last two kings, Enmebaragesi and his son Agga, are the first rulers attested in contemporary inscriptions. According to the King List, “kingship” (namlugal) then passed to the 1st Dynasty of Uruk, which included Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, and Gilgamesh, heroes of epic tradition, and finally to the 1st Dynasty of Ur. Epigraphic evidence, however, shows that these dynasties (and a dynasty at Mari) were all contemporary and date to c. 2700–2600 B.C.E. Many rulers known from contemporary inscriptions are not found in the King Lists
EARLY DYNASTIC III
The King Lists record eleven more dynasties before Sargon of Akkad, but, except for the 3rd dynasty of Uruk, little is known of them, and many were probably contemporaneous. The 1st Dynasty of Lagash (Telloh) is well known from inscriptions, though not mentioned in the King List. It started with Mesilim (c. 2600), but it was Eannatum (c. 2500) who conquered much of Sumer, extending Lagash’s power into Elam and Mari. Uru-inim-gina of Lagash (2378–2371) was the earliest known social reformer: he established “freedom” (amargi) in the land, the first recorded use of the term in a political sense. The 3rd Dynasty of Uruk had only one king: Lugal-zagesi (2371–2347). Beginning his career as Governor (ensi) of Umma, he defeated Lagash and took the title King of Uruk. Lugal-zagesi claimed to rule from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, though this is doubtful. Under his rule, Akkadians began to rise to high positions in government. The population of Mesopotamia probably reached half a million in this period.
THE DYNASTY OF AKKAD
Sargon the Great (Sharru-kin, 2371–2316) rose from obscure origins to become cupbearer to Ur-zababa, king of Kish. Rebelling, he built the city of Agade or Akkad (whose site has not been located) and proclaimed himself king. After defeating Lugal-zagesi of Uruk (c. 2347), he conquered the rest of Sumer. Sargon installed his daughter Enheduanna as high priestess at Ur. Enheduanna’s hymns to Inanna have survived, making her history’s first known author. Sargon went on to conquer Upper Mesopotamia, the Amorites (Amurru or “Westerners”) in Syria, Elam, and Subartu (Assyria). Later legends fancifully describe conquests of Anatolia and Crete, but Sargon’s empire certainly ranged from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Sargon’s sons Rimush (2315–2307) and Manishtushu (2306–2292) faced constant revolts: both died in palace coups. Naram-Sin (2291–2255) brought the kingdom of Akkad to its zenith. He was the first Mesopotamian king to claim divinity, as well as the first to be called “King of the Four Quarters” (that is, the World). Defeating the powerful state of Ebla in Syria, he extended his empire to Anatolia. Under Shar-kalisharri (2254–2230), Gutian tribes from the Zagros began raiding into Mesopotamia. Shar-kali-sharri was assassinated, and after him came a period of anarchy. An independent 4th Dynasty of Uruk broke away and ruled parts of Lower Mesopotamia. Around 2190, Akkad fell to the Gutians.
The King List records 21 Gutian kings, though most of them were probably local chiefs with only limited authority. Some cities, such as Lagash and Uruk, became independent, though their rulers retained the title of governor (ensi). Gudea of Lagash left inscriptions which contain the most important texts in classical Sumerian. Around 2114, Utu-Hegal of Uruk (2120–2114), drove the Gutians out of Sumer but died soon after.
3rd DYNASTY OF UR
The Sumerian Renaissance. Ur-nammu (2113–2096) of Ur proclaimed himself king and soon conquered all of Sumer and Akkad. He built and renovated many public buildings, including the enormous temple of Nanna at Ur, best preserved of Mesopotamian ziggurats. Ur-nammu, whose stated purpose was to establish “justice in the land,” is best known for his law code. The reestablishment of central control led to a rise in population: Mesopotamia probably had about one million 10 inhabitants at the beginning of the second millennium. Shulgi (2095–2048) brought the empire of Ur III to its height. He conquered Elam and Upper Mesopotamia and, like the Akkadian kings, he proclaimed himself the divine “King of the Four Quarters.” ShuSin (2038–2030) built a 150-mile-long wall between the rivers to defend against the encroaching Amorites. Nevertheless, in the reign of Ibbi-Sin (2029–2006) the Amorites invaded and established independent states in Lower Mesopotamia. In 2025, Larsa became autonomous under Naplanum, and in 2017 Ishbi-Erra established a dynasty at Isin. Eshnunna and Elam also broke away. In 2004, the Elamites attacked and destroyed Ur
The Ziggurat at Kish - History
4 - DUR.AN.KI - THE "BOND HEAVEN-EARTH"
From the earliest days, Man has lifted his eyes to the heavens for divine guidance, for inspiration, for help in troubled times. From the very beginning, even as Earth was separated from "Heaven" when it was created, heaven and Earth continued to meet everlastingly on the horizon. It was there, as Man gazed into the distance, at sunrise or sunset, that he could see the Heavenly Host.
Heaven and Earth meet on the horizon, and the knowledge based on observing the skies and the celestial motions resulting therefrom is called Astronomy. From the earliest days, Man knew that his creators had come from the heavens - the Anunnaki he called them, literally "Those who from Heaven to Earth Came." Their true abode was in the heavens, Man always knew: "Father who art in Heaven," Man knew to say.
But those of the Anunnaki who had come and stayed on Earth, Man also knew, could be worshiped in the temples. Man and his Gods met in the temples, and the knowledge and ritual and beliefs that resulted arc called Religion. The most important "cult center," the "navel of the earth," was Enlil's city in what was later Sumer. Central religiously, philosophically, and actually, that city, Nippur, was the Mission Control Center: and its Holy of Holies, where the Tablets of Destinies were kept, was called DUR.AN.KI - "Bond Heaven-Earth."
And ever since, at all times and in all places and in all religions, the places of worship that are called temples, in spite of all the changes that they, and Mankind and its religions have undergone, have remained the Bond Heaven-Earth. In ancient times astronomy and religion were linked: the priests were the astronomers and astronomers were priests. When Yahweh made his covenant with Abraham, He instructed Abraham to step out and lift his gaze skyward to try and count the stars, There was more than an idle stratagem in this, for Abraham's father, Terah, was an oracle priest in Nippur and Ur and thus knowing in astronomy.
In those days each of the Great Anunnaki was assigned a celestial counterpart, and since the Solar System had twelve members, the "Olympic Circle," throughout the millennia and up to and including Greek time, was always made up of twelve. It was thus that the worship of the Gods was closely associated with the motions of the celestial bodies, and the biblical admonitions against the worship of "the Sun, the Moon and the Host of Heaven'1 were in reality admonitions against the worship of Gods other than Yahweh.
The rituals, festivals, days of abstinence, and other rites that expressed the worship of the Gods were thus attuned to the motions of the Gods' celestial counterparts. Worship required a calendar temples were observatories priests were astronomers. The ziggurats were Temples of Time, where time-keeping joined astronomy to formalize worship. And Adam knew his wife again and she bore a son and called his name Sheth, for God (she said) has granted me another offspring instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Sheth in turn, a son was born and he called his name Enosh.
It was then that calling Yahweh by name began. Thus, according to the Bible (Genesis 4:25-26), did the Children of Adam begin to worship their God. How this calling in the name of the Lord was done - what form the worship took, what rituals were involved - we are not told. It happened, the Bible makes clear, in remote times, well before the Deluge. Sumerian texts, however, throw light on the subject.
They not only assert - repeatedly and emphatically - that there were Cities of the Gods in Mesopotamia before the Deluge, and that when the Deluge had occurred there had already been "demigods" (offspring of "Daughters of Man" by male Anunnaki "Gods"), but also that the worship took place in consecrated places (we call them "temples"). They were already, we learn from the earliest texts, Temples of Time. One of the Mesopotamian versions of the events leading to the Deluge is the text known (by its opening words) " When the Gods like men" in which the hero of the Deluge is called Atra-Hasis ("He who is exceedingly wise").
The tale relates how Anu, the ruler of Nibiru, returned to that planet from a visit to Earth after arranging a division of powers and territories on Earth between his feuding sons, the half brothers Enlil ("Lord of the Command") and Enki ("Lord of Earth"), putting Enki in charge of the gold mining operations in Africa. After describing the hard work of the Anunnaki assigned to the mines, their mutiny, and the ensuing creation through genetic engineering by Enki and his half sister Ninharsag of the Adamu, a "Primitive Worker," the epic relates how Mankind began to procreate and multiply.
In time, Mankind began to upset Enlil by its excessive "conjugations," especially with the Anunnaki (a situation reflected in the biblical version of the Deluge tale) and Enlil prevailed on the Great Anunnaki, in their Council, to use the foreseen catastrophe of the avalanche of water to wipe Mankind off the face of the Earth. But Enki, though he joined in swearing to keep the decision a secret from Mankind, was not happy with the decision and sought ways to frustrate it. He chose to achieve that through the intermediary of Atra-Hasis, a son of Enki by a human mother.
The text, which at times assumes a biographical style by Atra-Hasis himself, quotes him saying, "I am Atra-Hasis I lived in the temple of Enki my lord" - a statement which clearly establishes the existence of a temple in those remote pre-Diluvial times. Describing the worsening climatic conditions on the one hand and Enlil's harsh measures against Mankind on the other hand in the period preceding the Deluge, the text quotes Enki's advice to the people through Atra-Hasis how to protest against Enlil's decrees: the worship of the Gods should stop!
"Enki opened his mouth and addressed his servant," saying thus to him:
The elders, on a sign,
summon to the House of Council.
Let heralds proclaim a command
loudly throughout the land:
Do not reverence your Gods,
do not pray to your Goddesses.
As the situation got worse and the catastrophe day neared, Atra-Hasis persisted in his intercession with his God Enki.
"In the temple of his God . he set foot. every day he wept, bringing oblations in the morning."
Seeking Enki's help to avert Mankind's demise, "he called by the name of his God" - words that employ the same terminology as in the above-quoted verse from the Bible. In the end Enki decided to subvert the decision of the Council of the Anunnaki by summoning Atra-Hasis to the temple and speaking to him from behind a screen.
The event was commemorated on a Sumerian cylinder seal, showing Enki (as the Serpent God) revealing the secret of the Deluge to Atra-Hasis (Fig. 40). Giving him instructions for the building of a submersible boat that would withstand the avalanche of water, Enki advised Atra-Hasis to lose no time, for he had only seven days left before the catastrophe happened.
To make sure Atra-Hasis wasted no time, Enki put into motion a clocklike device:
He opened the water clock
and filled it
the coming of the flood on the seventh night
he marked off for him.
This little-noticed bit of information reveals that time was kept in the temples and that time-keeping goes back to the earliest, even pre-Diluvial times. It has been assumed that the ancient illustration depicts (on the right) the reed screen from behind which Enki had spoken to the hero of the great flood, the biblical Noah.
One must wonder, however, whether what we see is not a reed screen, but a depiction of that prehistoric water clock (held up by its priestly attendant). Enki was the chief scientist of the Anunnaki it is no wonder, therefore, that it was at his temple, at his "cult center" Eridu, that the first human scientists, the Wise Men, served as priests. One of the first, if not the very first, was called Adapa.
Though the original Sumerian Adapa text has not been found, Akkadian and Assyrian versions on clay fragments that have been found attest the tale's significance. Informing us at the very beginning that Adapa's command of wisdom was almost as good as that of Enki himself, the text proceeds to explain that Enki had "perfected for him wide understanding, disclosing all the designs of the Earth Wisdom he had given to him." It was all done at the temple Adapa, we are told, "daily did attend the sanctuary of Eridu."
According to Sumerian chronicles of the earlier times, it was at Eridu's temple that Enki, as guardian of the secrets of all scientific knowledge, kept the ME's - tablet-like objects on which the scientific data were inscribed. One of the Sumerian texts details how the Goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar), wishing to give status to her "cult center" Uruk (the biblical Erech), tricked Enki into giving her some of these divine formulas.
Adapa, we find, was also nicknamed NUN.ME, meaning "He who can decipher the ME's." Even unto millennia later, in Assyrian times, the saying "Wise as Adapa" meant that someone was exceedingly wise and knowledgeable. The study of sciences was often referred to in Mesopotamian texts as Shunnat apkali Adapa, "recital/repetition of the great forefather Adapa." A letter by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal mentioned that his grandfather, King Sennacherib, was given great knowledge when Adapa had appeared to him in a dream.
The "wide knowledge" imparted by Enki to Adapa included writing, medicine, and - according to the astronomical series of tablets UD.SAR.ANUM.ENLILLA ("The Great Days of Anu and Enlil") - knowledge of astronomy and astrology. Though Adapa had daily attended the sanctuary of Enki, it appears from Sumerian texts that the first officially appointed priest - a function that then passed hereditarily from father to son - was named EN.ME.DUR.AN.KI - "Priest of the ME's of Duranki," the sacred precinct of Nippur.
The texts report how the Gods "showed him how to observe oil and water, the secrets of Anu, Enlil, and Enki. They gave him the Divine Tablet, the engraved secrets of Heaven and Earth. They taught him how to make calculations with numbers" - the knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and of the art of measurement, including that of time. Many of the Mesopotamian tablets dealing with mathematics, astronomy, and the calendar have astounded scientists by their sophistication.
At the core of these sciences was a mathematical system called sexagesimal ("Base Sixty") whose advanced nature, including its celestial aspects, has already been discussed. Such sophistication existed even in the earliest times that some call predynastic: arithmetically inscribed tablets (Fig. 41) that have been found attest the use of the sexagesimal system and of numerical record keeping. Designs on clay objects also from the earliest times (Fig. 42) leave no doubt regarding the high level of knowledge of geometry in those remote times, six thousand years ago.
And one must wonder whether these designs, or at least some of them, were purely decorative or represented knowledge regarding the Earth, its four "corners," and perhaps even of the shape of astronomically related structures. What these designs also show applies to an important point made in the previous chapter: the circle and circular shapes were obviously known in ancient Mesopotamia and could be drawn to perfection.
Additional information regarding the antiquity of the exact sciences can be gleaned from the tales about Etana, one of the earliest Sumerian rulers. At first considered a mythical hero, he is now recognized as a historical person. According to the Sumerian King Lists, when kingship - an organized civilization - was "lowered again from heaven" after the Deluge, "kingship was first in Kish" - a city whose remains and antiquity have been found and confirmed by archaeologists.
Its thirteenth ruler was called Etana, and the King Lists, which by and large only list the names of successive rulers and the length of their reigns, make an exception in the case of Etana by adding after his name the following notation: "A shepherd he who ascended to heaven, who consolidated all the lands."
According to Thorkild Jacobsen (The Sumerian King List) Etana's reign began circa 3100 BC. excavations at Kish have unearthed the remains of monumental buildings and a ziggurat (stage-temple) dating to the same time. In the aftermath of the Deluge, when the plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers dried sufficiently to enable resettlement, the Cities of the Gods were rebuilt exactly where they had been, according to the "olden plan," Kish, the first City of Men, was entirely new and its place and layout had to be determined.
These decisions, we read in the Tale of Etana , were made by the Gods. Employing scientific knowledge of geometry for layout and astronomy for orientation,
The Gods traced out a city
Seven Gods laid its foundations.
The city of Kish they traced out,
and there the seven Gods laid its foundation,
A city they established, a dwelling place
but a Shepherd they withheld.
The twelve rulers at Kish who had preceded Etana were not yet given the Sumerian royal-priestly title EN.SI - "Lordly Shepherd" or as some prefer "Righteous Shepherd." The city, it appears, could attain this status only when the Gods could find the right man to build a ziggurat stage-temple there and, by becoming a king-priest, be given the title EN.SI.
Who would be "their builder, the one to build the E.HURSAG.KALAMMA," the Gods asked - build the "House" (ziggurat) that shall be "Mountain head for all the lands"? The task to "look for a king in all the lands, above and below," was assigned to Inanna/Ishtar. She found and recommended Etana - a humble shepherd. Enlil, "he who grants kingship," had to make the actual appointment.
We read that "Enlil inspected Etana, the young man whom Ishtar had nominated. 'She sought and she found!' he cried. 'In the land shall kingship be established let the heart of Kish be glad!' " Now comes the "mythological" part. The brief notation in the King Lists that Etana ascended to heaven stemmed from a chronicle that scholars call the "legend" of Etana which related how Etana, with the permission of the God Utu/Shamash who was in charge of the spaceport, was carried aloft by an "eagle."
The higher he rose, the smaller the Earth looked. After the first beru of flight the land "became a mere hill" after the second beru the land looked like a mere furrow after the third beru, as a garden ditch and after one more beru the Earth completely disappeared. "As I glanced around," Etana later reported, "the land had disappeared, and upon the sea mine eyes could not feast." A beru in Sumer was a unit of measurement - of length (a "league") and of time (one "double-hour," the twelfth part of a daytime-nighttime period that we now divide into twenty-four hours). It remained a unit of measure in astronomy, when it denoted the twelfth part of the heavenly circle.
The text of the Tale of Etana does not make clear which unit of measurement - distance, time, or arc - was meant perhaps all of them. What the text does make clear is that at that remote time, when the first true Shepherd King was enthroned in the first City of Men, distance, time, and the heavens could already be measured. Kishas the first royal city - under the patronage of "Nimrod" - is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis chapter 10) and certain other aspects of events recorded in the Bible merit exploration.
This is especially so because of the puzzling mention in the Tale of Etana of the seven Gods involved in the planning - and thus orientation - of the city and its ziggurat. Since all the major Gods of ancient Mesopotamia had celestial counterparts from among the twelve members of the Solar System, as well as a counterpart from the twelve constellations of the zodiac and from the twelve months, one must wonder whether the reference to the determination of the orientation of Kish and its ziggurat by the "seven Gods" did not actually mean by the seven planets which those deities represented.
Were the Anunnaki waiting for the propitious alignment of seven planets as the right time and right orientation for Kish and its ziggurat? Further light, we believe, can be shed on the subject by journeying in time over more than two thousand years to Judea circa 1000 BC.
Incredibly, we find that about three thousand years ago the circumstances surrounding the selection of a shepherd to be the builder of a new temple in a new royal capital emulated the events and circumstances recorded in the Tale of Etana and the same number seven, with a calendrical significance, also played a role. The Judean city where the ancient drama was reenacted was Jerusalem.
David, who was shepherding the flocks of his father, Jesse the Bethlehemite, was chosen by the Lord for kingship. After the death of King Saul, when David reigned in Hebron over the tribe of Judah alone, representatives of the other eleven tribes "came unto David in Hebron" and asking him to become king over all of them reminded him that Yahweh had earlier said thus to him: "You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be a Nagid over Israel" (II Samuel 5:2).
The term Nagid is usually translated "Captain" (King James Version), "Commander" (The New American Bible) or even "Prince" (The New English Bible). None appear to have realized that Nagid is a Sumerian loanword, a term borrowed intact from the Sumerian language, in which the word meant "herdsman"! A principal preoccupation of the Israelites at that time was the need to find a home for the Ark of the Covenant - not just a permanent home, but also a safe one.
Originally made and placed by Moses in the Tent of Appointment during the Exodus, it contained the two stone tablets in-scribed with the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Made of specific wood and overlaid with gold both inside and outside, it was surmounted by two Cherubim made of hardened gold with wings extended toward each other and each time Moses had an appointment with the Lord, Yahweh spoke to him "from between the two Cherubim".
(Fig. 43a is a reconstruction suggested by Hugo Gressmann (Die Lade Jahves) because of similar depictions found in northern Phoenicia Fig. 43b is a depiction suggested by A. Parrot in Le Temple de Jerusalem).
We believe that the Ark, with its insulated gold layers and Cherubim was a communication device, perhaps electrically powered (when it was once touched inadvertently, the person involved fell dead). Yahweh had given very detailed instructions regarding the construction of the Tent of Appointment and the enclosure for it, and for the Ark, including what amounted to an "operating manual" for the dismantling and reassembly of all that as well as for the careful transportation of the Ark.
By David's time, however, the Ark was no longer carried by wooden staves but transported upon a wheeled carriage. It was moved from one temporary place of worship to another, and a major assignment for the newly anointed Shepherd King was to establish a new national capital in Jerusalem and therein build a permanent housing for the Ark in the "House of the Lord."
But this was not to come to pass. Speaking to King David through the Prophet Nathan, the Lord informed him that it would not be he but his son who would be granted the privilege of building a House of Cedars for Yahweh. And so it was that one of the very first tasks of King Solomon was to build the "House of Yahweh" (now referred to as the First Temple) in Jerusalem.
Built as the sacred compound and its components in the Sinai were, it was erected in accordance with very detailed instructions. In fact, the layout plans of the two are almost identical (Fig. 44a the sacred compound in the Sinai Fig. 44b the Temple of Solomon).
Figure 44a - Figure 44b
And both were oriented along a precise east-west axis, identifying them both as equinoctial temples. The similarities between Kish and Jerusalem as new national capitals, a Shepherd King, and the task of building a temple whose plans were provided by the Lord is enhanced by the significance of the number seven.
We are informed in I Kings (chapter 3) that Solomon proceeded to organize the construction project (it involved, among others in the workforce, 80,000 stone quarriers and 70,000 porters) only after Yahweh had appeared unto Solomon in Gibeon "in a nightly vision." The construction, lasting seven years, began with laying the foundation stone in the fourth year of Solomon's reign and "in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul which is the eighth month the Temple was completed in all its stipulations and exactly according to its plans."
But although entirely complete with no detail missed or omitted, the Temple was not inaugurated. It was only eleven months later, "in the month of Etanim, the seventh month, on the festival," that all the elders and tribal chiefs from all over assembled in Jerusalem,
"and the priests brought the Ark of the Covenant with Yahweh into its place, into the Dvir of the temple which is the Holy of Holies, under the wings of the Cherubim. And there was nothing in the Ark except the two stone tablets which Moses had placed therein in the Wilderness after Yahweh had made a covenant with the Children of Israel after they had left Egypt. And when the priests had stepped out of the Holy of Holies, a cloud filled the House of Yahweh."
And Solomon prayed unto Yahweh, "He who dwells in the fog-like cloud," beseeching the Lord "who dwells in the heavens" to come and listen to his people's prayers in the new temple. The long postponement in the inauguration of the temple was required, it appears, so that it would take place "in the seventh month, on the festival."
There can be no doubt that the festival referred to was the New Year festival, in accordance with the commandments concerning holy days and festivals pronounced in the biblical Book of Leviticus. "These are the appointed festivals of Yahweh," the preamble to chapter 23 states: the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath is just the first of holy days to be held in intervals of multiples of seven days or that were to last seven days, culminating with the festivals of the seventh month: New Year's Day, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths.
In Mesopotamia by that time Babylon and Assyria had supplanted Sumer, and the New Year festival was celebrated - as the month's name indicated - in the first month, called Nissan, which coincided with the spring equinox. The reasons why the Israelites were commanded to celebrate the New Year in the seventh month, coinciding with the autumnal equinox, remain unexplained in the Bible.
But we may find a clue in the fact that the biblical narrative does not call this month by its Babylonian-Assyrian name, Tishrei, but by the enigmatic name Etanim. No satisfactory explanation for this name has been found so far but a solution does occur to us: in view of all the above listed similarities between the king-priest as a shepherd and the circumstances of the establishment of a new capital and the construction of a residence for Yahweh in the desert and in Jerusalem, the clue to the month's name should also be sought in the Tale of Etana .
For does not the name used in the Bible, Etanim, simply stem from the name Etana? The name Etan as a personal name, one may note, was not uncommon among the Hebrews, meaning "heroic, mighty." The celestial alignments in Kish, we have noted, were expressed not only in the temple's solar orientation but also in some relationship with seven planetary "Gods" in the heavens. It is noteworthy that in a discussion by August Wiinsche of the similarities between Solomon's edifices in Jerusalem and the Mesopotamian "portrait of the heavens" (Ex Oriente Lux, vol, 2) he cited the rabbinic reference - as in the Tale of Etana - to the "seven stars that indicate time" - Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun. and Venus.
There are thus plenty of clues and indications confirming the celestial-calendrical aspects of Solomon's Temple - aspects that link it to traditions and orientations established millennia earlier, in Sumer. This is reflected not only in the orientation, but also in the temple's tripartite division it emulated the traditional temple plans that began in Mesopotamia millennia earlier.
Gunter Martiny, who in the 1930s led the studies regarding the architecture and astronomical orientation of Mesopotamian temples (Die Gegensdtze im Babylonischen und Assyrischen Tempelbau and other studies) sketched thus (Fig. 45a) the basic tripartite layout of "cult structures": a rectangular anteroom, an elongated ritual hall, and a square Holy of Holies.
Figure 45a - Figure 45b
Walter Andrae (Des Gotteshaus und die Urformen des Bauens) pointed out that in Assyria the temple's entrance was flanked by two pylons (Fig. 45b) this was reflected in Solomon's Temple, where the entrance was flanked by two freestanding pillars (see Fig. 44b). The detailed architectural and construction information in the Bible in respect to Solomon's Temple calls its anteroom Ulam, its ritual hall Hekhal, and its holiest part Dvir.
The latter, meaning "Where the speaking takes place," no doubt reflected the fact that Yahweh spoke to Moses from the Ark of the Covenant, the voice coming from where the wings of the Cherubim were touching and the Ark was placed in the Temple as the only artifact in the innermost enclosure, the Holy of Holies or Dvir.
The terminology used for the two foreparts, scholars have recognized, comes from the Sumerian (via Akkadian): E-gal and Ulammu. This essential tripartite division, adopted later on else-where (e.g. the Zeus temple in Olympia, Fig. 46a, or the Canaanite one at Tainat in Upper Syria, Fig. 46b), was in reality a continuation that began with the most ancient temples, the ziggurats of Sumer, where the way to the ziggurat's top, via a stairway, led through two shrines, an outer shrine with two pylons in front of it, and a prayer room - as drawn by G. Martiny in his studies (Fig. 47).
Figure 46a - Figure 46b
As in the Sinai Tabernacle and Jerusalem Temple, so were the Mesopotamian vessels and utensils used in the . temple rituals made primarily of gold. Texts describing temple rituals in Uruk mention golden libation vessels, golden trays, and golden censers such objects were found in archaeological excavations. Silver was also used, an example being the engraved vase (Fig. 48) that Entemena, one of the early Sumerian kings, presented to his God Ninurta at the temple in Lagash.
The artful votive utensils usually bore a dedicatory inscription in which the king stated that the object was offered so that the king might be granted long life. Such presentations could be made only with the permission of the Gods, and in many instances were events of great significance, worthy of commemoration in the Date Formulas - listings of the kings' reigns in which each year was named after its main event: the king's ascent to the throne, a war, the presentation of a new temple artifact.
Thus, a king of Isin (Ishbi-Erra) called the nineteenth year of his reign "Year in which the throne in the Great House of the Goddess Ninlil was made'' and another ruler of Isin (IshmeDagan) named one of his regal years "Year in which Ishme-Dagan made a bed of gold and silver for the Goddess Ninlil."
But having been built of bricks made of clay, the temples of Mesopotamia fell into disrepair as time went by, frequently as the result of earthquakes. Constant maintenance and repairs were required, and repairs or reconstruction of the Gods' houses, rather than the offering of new furnishings, began to fill the Date Formulas.
Thus, the years-list for the famed Hammurabi, king of Babylon, began with the designation of Year One as the "Year in which Hammurabi became king," and "Year in which the laws were promulgated" for Year Two.
Year Four, however, was already designated "Year in which Hammurabi built a wall for the sacred precinct." A successor of Hammurabi in Babylon, the king Shamshi-Iluna, named his eighteenth year as the "Year in which the reconstruction work was done on the E.BABBAR of the God Utu in Sippar" (E.BABBAR, meaning "House of the Bright One," was a temple dedicated to the "Sun-God" Utu/Shamash).
Sumerian, then Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian kings recorded in their inscriptions with great pride how they repaired, embellished, or rebuilt the sacred temples and their precincts archaeological excavations not only uncovered such inscriptions but also corroborated the claims made therein.
In Nippur, for example, archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania found in the 1880s evidence of repair and maintenance work in the sacred precinct in thirty-five feet of debris piled up during some four thousand years above a brick pavement built by the Akkadian king Naram-Sin circa 2250 BC. and another accumulation of debris of over thirty feet below the pavement from earlier times down to virgin soil (which were not excavated and examined at the time).
Returning to Nippur half a century later, a joint expedition of the University of Pennsylvania and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago spent many digging seasons working to unearth the Temple of Enlil in Nippur's sacred precinct. The excavators found five successive constructions between 2200 BC. and 600 BC., the latter having its floor some twenty feet above the former. The even earlier temples, the archaeologists' report noted at the time, were still to be dug for.
The report also noted that the live temples were "built one above the other on exactly the same plan." The discovery that later temples were erected upon the foundations of earlier temples in strict adherence to the original plans was reconfirmed at other ancient sites in Mesopotamia.
The rule applied even to enlargement of temples - even if more than once, as was found at Eridu (Fig. 49) in all instances the original axis and orientation were retained. Unlike the Egyptian temples whose solstitial orientation had to be realigned from time to time because of the change in the Earth's tilt, Mesopotamian equinoctial temples needed no adjustment in their orientation because geographic north and geographic east, by definition, remained unchanged no matter how the Earth's tilt had changed: the Sun always passed over the equator at "equinox" times, rising on such days precisely in the east.
The obligation to adhere to the "olden plans" was spelled out in an inscription on a tablet found in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, among the ruins of a rebuilt temple. In it the Assyrian king recorded his compliance with the sacred requirement:
The everlasting ground plan,
that which for the future
the construction determined,
[I have followed.]
It is the one which bears
the drawings from the Olden Times
and the writing of the Upper Heaven.
The Assyrian king Ashur-Nasir-Pal described what such work entailed in a long inscription regarding the restoration of the temple in Calah (an early city mentioned in the Bible). Describing how he had unearthed the "ancient mound," he stated:
"I dug down to the level of the water, for 120 measures into the depth I penetrated. I found the foundations of the God Ninib, my lord . I constructed thereon, with firm brickwork, the temple of Ninib, my lord."
It was done, the king prayed, so that the God Ninib (an epithet for the God Ninurta) "may command that my days be long." Such a blessing, the king hoped, would follow the decision by the God, at a time of his own choosing - "at his heart's desire" - to come and reside in the rebuilt temple: "When the lord Ninib shall take up habitation, forever, in his pure temple, his dwelling place."
It is a prayed-for expectation-cum-invitation not unlike the one expressed by King Solomon when the First Temple was completed. Indeed, the obligatory adherence to the earlier site, orientation, and layout of the temples in the ancient Near East, no matter how long the interval or how extensive the repairs or rebuilding had to be, is exemplified by the successive temples in Jerusalem.
The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. but after Babylon fell to the Achaemenid Persians, the Persian king Cyrus issued an edict permitting the return of Jewish exiles to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple by them. The rebuilding, significantly, began with the erection of an altar (where the first one used to be) "when the seventh month commenced," i.e. on the day of the New Year (and the sacrifices continued until the Feast of Booths).
Lest there be doubt about the date, the Book of Ezra (3:6) restated the would not just match, but even surpass, in grandeur the First Temple. Built on an enlarged great platform (still known as the Temple Mount) and its massive walls (of which the Western Wall, still largely intact, is revered by Jews as the extant remnant of the Holy Temple), it was surrounded by courtyards and various auxiliary buildings. But the House of the Lord proper retained the tripartite layout and orientation of the First Temple (Fig. 52).
The Holy of Holies, moreover, remained identical in size to that of the First Temple - and was located precisely over its spot except that the enclosure was no longer called Dvir, for the Ark of the Covenant disappeared when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple and carried off all the artifacts within. As one views the remains of the immense sacred precincts with their temples and shrines and service buildings, courtyards and gates, and, in the innermost section, the ziggurat, it should be borne in mind that the very first temples were the actual abodes of the Gods and were literally called the God's "E" - the God's actual "House."
Begun as structures atop artificial mounds and raised platforms (see Fig. 35), they in time evolved to become the famed ziggurats (step-pyramids) - the skyscrapers of antiquity. As an artist's drawing shows (Fig. 53), the deity's actual residence was in the topmost stage.
There, seated on their thrones under a canopy, the Gods would grant audiences to their chosen king, the "Shepherd of Men." As is shown in this depiction of Utu/Shamash in his temple, the Ebabbar in Sippar (Fig. 54), the king had to be led in by the high priest and was accompanied by his patron God or Goddess. (Later on, the High Priest alone entered the Holy of Holies, as depicted in Fig. 55).
Circa 2300 BC. a high priestess, the daughter of Sargon of Akkad, collected all the hymns to the ziggurat-temples of her time.
Called by Sumerologists "a unique Sumerian literary composition" (A. Sjoberg and E. Bergmann in Texts From Cuneiform Sources, vol. 3), the text pays homage to forty-two "E" temples, from Eridu in the south to Sippar in the north and on both sides of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
The verses not only name the temple, its location, and the God for whom it was built, but also throw light on the magnificence and greatness of these divine abodes as well as on their functions and, sometimes, their history. The composition appropriately begins with Enki's ziggurat-temple in Eridu, called in the hymn "place whose Holy of Holies is the foundation of Heaven-Earth," for Eridu was the first City of the Gods, the first outpost of the first landing party of the Anunnaki (led by Enki), and the first divine city opened up to Earthlings to become also a City of Men.
Called E.DUKU, "House of the Holy Mound," it was described in the hymn as a "lofty shrine, rising toward the sky." This hymn was followed by one to the E.KUR - "House which is like a mountain" - the ziggurat of Enlil in Nippur. Considered the Navel of the Earth, Nippur was equidistant from all the other earliest Cities of the Gods, and was still deemed to be the place from whose ziggurat as one looked to his right he could see Sumer in the south and to his left Akkad in the north, according to the hymn.
It was a "shrine where destinies are determined," a ziggurat "which bonds heaven and earth." In Nippur Ninlil, Enlil's spouse, had her separate temple, "clad in awesome brilliance." From it the Goddess appeared "in the month of the New Year, on the day of the festival, wonderfully adorned." The half sister of Enki and Enlil, Ninharsag, who was among the first Anunnaki to come to Earth and was their chief biologist and medical officer, had her temple at the city called Kesh.
Simply called E.NINHARSAG. "House of the Lady of the Mountainpeak," it was described as a ziggurat whose "bricks are well moulded. a place of Heaven and Earth, an awe inspiring place" which apparently was adorned with "a great poisonous serpent" made of lapis lazuli - the symbol of medicine and healing. (Moses, it will be recalled, made an image of a serpent to stop a killing plague in the Sinai desert).
The God Ninurta, Enlil's Foremost Son by his half sister Ninharsag, who had a ziggurat in his own "cult center," Lagash, had at the time of the composition of this text also a temple in the sacred precinct of Nippur it was called E.ME.UR.ANNA, "House of the ME's of Anu's Hero." In Lagash, the ziggurat was called E.NINNU, "House of Fifty," reflecting Ninurta's numerical rank in the divine hierarchy (Anu's rank, sixty, was the highest).
It was, the hymn stated, a "House filled with radiance and awe, grown high like a mountain," in which Ninurta's "Black Bird," his flying machine, and his Sharur weapon ("the raging storm which envelops men") were housed. Enlil's firstborn son by his official spouse, Ninlil, was Nannar (later known as Sin), who was associated with the Moon as his celestial counterpart.
His ziggurat, in Ur, was called E.KISH.NU.GAL, a "House of Thirty, the great seed" and was described as a temple "whose beaming moonlight comes forth in the land" - all references to Nannar/Sin's celestial association with the Moon and the month. Nannar/Sin's son, Utu/Shamash (his celestial counterpart was the Sun) had his temple in Sippar, the E.BABBAR - "House of the Bright One" or "Bright House."
It was described as "House of the prince of heaven, a heavenly star who from the horizon fills the earth from heaven." His twin sister, Inanna/Ishtar, whose celestial counterpart was the planet Venus, had her ziggurat temple in the city Zabalam, where it was called "House full of brightness" it was described as a "pure mountain," a "shrine whose mouth opens at dawn" and one "through which the firmament is made beautiful at night" - undoubted reference to the double role of Venus as an evening, as well as a morning, "star."
Inanna/Ishtar was also worshiped in Erech, where Anu had put at her disposal the ziggurat-temple built for him when he had come to Earth for a visit. The ziggurat was called E.ANNA, simply "House of Anu." The hymn described it as a "ziggurat of seven stages, surveying the seven luminary Gods of the night" - a reference to its alignment and astronomical aspects that was echoed, as we have noted earlier, in rabbinic comments regarding the Jerusalem temple.
Thus did the composition go on, portraying the forty-two ziggurats, their glories, and celestial associations. Scholars speak of this composition from more than 4,300 years ago as a "collection of Sumerian temple hymns" and title it "The Cycle of Old Sumerian Poems about the Great Temples."
It may however be much more appropriate to follow the Sumerian custom and call the text by its opening words:
E U NIR House-ziggurat rising high
AN.KI DA Heaven-Earth joining.
One of those Houses and its sacred precinct, as we shall see, hold a key that can unlock the Stonehenge enigma and the events of that time's New Age.
Iraq’s ancient Kish City lies buried in sand
KISH CITY, Iraq — A British archaeological team from the Field Museum and Oxford University conducted excavations between 1923 and 1929 in Kish City, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad. Since then, no other excavations have been made in the city, which dates back 5,000 years. The visible ruins of the ancient site have been covered by sand dunes and mounds. According to archaeological records, Kish City survived the Great Flood that happened some 7,600 years ago and was mentioned in Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures.
Kish City is also well known because this is the site where the famous King Sargon of Akkad, with whom the Akkadian state was raised to the level of an empire, appeared. This brave king annexed the cities neighboring Kish to his kingdom and invaded the lands neighboring Iraq, such as Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Arab Gulf region.
Whoever visits Kish City, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) east of Babil, will not find, for the time being, more than ruins buried underneath the sand.
Abu Ali, the guard of the archaeological site, told Al-Monitor, “There are no new explorations and excavations in the historic city, which has not been excavated or protected from artifact smugglers, except for being enclosed by a fence that does not provide the required protection.”
The Kish archaeological site is located in an agricultural area neighboring scattered villages. Yet the residents of those areas rarely visit the site, Sheikh Haidar al-Yassiri, a resident of al-Imam district, which is 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the site, told Al-Monitor. He attributed the reason because “the people believe it is haunted.”
In addition to the people’s metaphysical beliefs, Yassiri said, “Many of the area’s residents are not aware of how important these artifacts are. In 1995, the peasants found gold pieces buried in a deep hole, which led to a tribal dispute to acquire them. The police interfered to take this archaeological treasure from the tribes.”
Ali al-Fata, a retired history professor from Babil, told Al-Monitor that there are metaphysical fears as well as ambitions to acquire gold from ancient times on the part of the residents. He said, “Ignorance and the lack of awareness about history have caused the site to be neglected, as some have fears that hidden forces are haunting it.”
He added, “On the other hand, some of the area’s residents have found an opportunity for illegal self-enrichment. They started to secretly excavate it in search of archaeological finds, many of which have already been stolen.”
From a distance, the Kish archaeological site seems like gloomy colored mounds. When approaching it, it looks like the ruins of emaciated walls and eroded blocks, and it is unclear whether they are the remains of houses, palaces or temples. Time decay, fierce and long neglect, and the thieves’ excavations of the ruins have turned it into a desolate site.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Tareq Sultani, member of the Babil municipal council, said, “The site includes more than 40 mounds hiding artifacts that date back to the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations.”
These mounds are affected by rain and wind and have been forgotten, with their treasures only being discovered by chance. Hussein Faleh, director of the Babylon archaeological department affiliated with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told the press on Dec. 6, 2013, “Rainfall has led to soil erosion, which has led to the discovery of nearly 100 different artifacts that date back to the Sasanian and Babylonian empires in Iraq.” The ancient city of Babylon — where the Kish archaeological site is located — consists of more than 400 defined and registered archaeological sites, while the tourism and archaeology department confirmed that there are 10,000 archaeological sites that are officially registered and that only 2% were excavated.
Iraq includes hundreds of archaeological sites that are left unexcavated, such as the archaeological sites in Karbala province and ancient Babylon, where 75% of the sites have not yet been excavated, according to the assistant of Babil’s governor. Extensive parts of these sites are neglected and artifacts are at risk of being taken illegally.
Amer Ajaj, archaeologist and history professor at Babil University, pointing to framed pictures of Kish City, told Al-Monitor, “The largest mound is called Tell Uhaimir [from the Arabic root word ‘hamar,’ meaning red], after its red [bricks] under which there are the ruins of the ziggurat and the Inanna temple. These were mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is a poem written during the Sumerian era [2750-2350].”
Ajaj said, “The rehabilitation of this vast archaeological site will only take place through investment ventures that provide the necessary funds to bring in foreign expertise that helps explore it. The world is interested in this site given that it dates back to ancient times.”
The Kish archaeological site is actually an oval area roughly 5 miles by 2 miles encompassing around 40 mounds, the largest being Uhaimir and Ingharra. The most notable mounds are
- Tell Uhaimir - believed to be the location of the city of Kish. It means "the red" after the red bricks of the ziggurat there.
- Tell Ingharra - believed to be the location of Hursagkalamma, east of Kish, home of a temple of Inanna. ΐ]
- Tell Khazneh
- Tell el-Bender - held Parthian material.
- Mound W - where a number of Neo-Assyrian tablets were discovered.
After illegally excavated tablets began appearing at the beginning of the last century, François Thureau-Dangin identified the site as being Kish. Those tablets ended up in a variety of museums.
A French archaeological team under Henri de Genouillac excavated at Kish between 1912 and 1914, finding 1400 Old Babylonian tablets which were distributed to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the Louvre. Α] Later a joint Field Museum and Oxford University team under Stephen Langdon excavated from 1923 to 1933, with the recovered materials split between Chicago and the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Β] Γ] Δ] Ε] Ζ]
More recently, a Japanese team from the Kokushikan University excavated at Kish in 1988, 2000, and 2001. The last season lasted only one week. Η]
The Ziggurat at Kish - History
At the center of each major city in Mesopotamia was a large structure called a ziggurat. The ziggurat was built to honor the main god of the city. The tradition of building a ziggurat was started by the Sumerians, but other civilizations of Mesopotamia such as the Akkadians, the Babylonians, and the Assyrians also built ziggurats.
The Ziggurat of the city of Ur
based on a 1939 drawing by Leonard Woolley
What did they look like?
Ziggurats looked like step pyramids. They would have anywhere from 2 to 7 levels or steps. Each level would be smaller than the one before. Typically the ziggurat would be square in shape at the base.
Some ziggurats are believed to have been huge. Perhaps the largest ziggurat was the one at Babylon. Recorded dimensions show that it had seven levels and reached a height of nearly 300 feet. It was also 300 feet by 300 feet square at its base.
Why did they build them?
The ziggurat was a temple to the main god of the city. Each city in Mesopotamia had a primary god. For example, Murdock was the god of Babylon, Enki was the god of Eridu, and Ishtar was the goddess of Nineveh. The ziggurat showed that the city was dedicated to that god.
At the top of the ziggurat was a shrine to the god. The priests would perform sacrifices and other rituals here. They built them high because they wanted the shrine to be as close to the heavens as possible.
Are there any ziggurats left?
Many of the ziggurats have been destroyed over the past several thousands of years. The famous huge ziggurat of Babylon was said to have been in ruins by the time Alexander the Great conquered the city in 330 BC. The ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil is one of the last surviving ziggurats. Some ziggurats have been reconstructed or rebuilt. The ziggurat at the city Ur is one that has been somewhat rebuilt.
ISIS Has Destroyed a Nearly 3,000-Year-Old Assyrian Ziggurat
In addition to the many human atrocities committed by ISIS, one of its regular calling cards has been the destruction of irreplaceable archaeological sites. Now, even as Iraqi forces work to drive the insurgent group from its strongholds, satellite images show it has left behind a trail of destroyed heritage sites, including a 2,900-year-old ziggurat in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq.
Predecessors to structures like the Great Pyramids, the ziggurats of Mesopotamia were massive step pyramids built as religious sites. For Nimrud, the capital of the ancient Assyrian civilization, the 140-foot-tall temple was the center of its spiritual life, Caroline Elbaor reports for artnet News. Built about 2,900 years ago by King Ashurnasirpal II, the mud brick structure was dedicated to Ninurta, a god of war and the city’s patron deity.
Iraqi forces announced that they had recaptured Nimrud on Sunday, Dominic Evans and Ahmed Rasheed report for Reuters. While experts are still waiting for permission to examine the damage inflicted on the ancient city, recent satellite images indicate that the ziggurat is no more.
ISIS has made a habit out of publically destroying and vandalizing ancient historical sites throughout its reign in the region, nominally as an attack on traditions and culture that do not fit into its religious beliefs. However, as Benjamin Sutton reports for Hyperallergic, experts unsure exactly why the group destroyed the ziggurat.
“The ziggurat mound is the highest point in the nearby landscape, making it an ideal defensive position for encroaching forces. However, the archaeological site is located in a remote area far from strategic points,” the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives says in a statement. “Alternatively, like the Northwest Palace and the Nabu Temple at Nimrud, the attack could have served a dual purpose: intentional destruction for the composition of future propaganda and retributory violence to demoralize local populations and goad invading military forces. ISIL militants could also have been searching for antiquities in the mound.”
If the militants were looking for treasures to loot, they would have been sorely disappointed by the ziggurat of Nimrud. Unlike the Great Pyramids, which contained internal chambers and passageways, ziggurats were solid mounds made from mud brick, with nothing on the inside but more brick, Richard Spencer reports for The Times.
John Curtis, the president of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, was told about the Nimrud's destruction in September by Iraqi sources, but was asked to keep the information confidential, Martin Bailey reports for The Art Newspaper. The site at Nimrud still needs to be secured and swept for mines and booby traps left behind by ISIS fighters before civilian experts will be able to visit and assess the damage in person. But whatever the insurgent group’s reasons for demolishing the ziggurat, the result is the destruction of yet another priceless piece of humanity’s cultural heritage.
About Danny Lewis
Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.
Kish in the Kassite Period ( c. 1650–1150 B.C.)
After over half a century systematic excavation is once again underway at Kish. A team of Japanese archaeologists led by Prof. Hideo Fujii has reopened the archaeological investigation of this large ancient site where many periods of occupation are to be found. This study focuses on only a small fragment of the history of settlement at Kish, drawing together the evidence for habitation on the site in the Kassite Period.
The evidence may broadly be separated into three groups: inscribed objects found at Kish references to Kish in texts of the Kassite Period and artifacts peculiar to the Kassite Period found on the site.
The history and results of the excavations conducted at Kish before the Second World War have been well summarized by Moorey . I do not intend to present an even briefer summary in this paper. Suffice it to note that the bulk of the material discussed below derives from the two major campaigns at Kish: those of de Genouillac in 1912 [1925 Gibson: 1972: 69–70], and those of the Oxford–Field Museum Expedition between 1923 and 1933 [Field: 1929 Langdon: 1924 Mackay: 1925, 1929 Watelin: 1930, 1934 Gibson: 1972: 69–70]. Important supplementary evidence is also contained in the results of the surface survey work conducted at and around Kish by Gibson .