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Iraq’s solution to the pyramids

The Ziggurat of Ur is a 4,100-year-old massive, tiered shrine lined with giant staircases (Credit: Geena Truman)

Egypt may also have the Pyramids of Giza, however Iraq has the Ziggurat of Ur – an incredibly well-preserved engineering fulfillment that towers over the ruins of an essential historical town.


Around 4,000 years in the past, this pale, hard-packed spit of Iraqi wilderness became the centre of civilisation. Today the ruins of the first-rate town of Ur, as soon as an administrative capital of Mesopotamia, now take a seat down in a barren barren region close to Iraq’s maximum infamous jail. In the shadow of the towering jail fences, Abo Ashraf, the self-proclaimed caretaker of the archaeological web website online, and a handful of travelers are the handiest symptoms and symptoms of existence for miles. At the quit of a protracted wood walkway, an magnificent ziggurat is sort of all that stays of the historical Sumerian metropolis.

To get right here, I’d been packed into the backseat of a taxi hurtling thru the wilderness for hours, until I commenced to peer the town’s famed monument looming withinside the distance: the Ziggurat of Ur, a 4,100-year-antique big, tiered shrine coated with large staircases. A tall chain hyperlink fence barricading the doorway and a paved car parking zone have been the handiest tips of the cutting-edge world.

The very first ziggurats pre-date the Egyptian pyramids, and some stays can nevertheless be located in cutting-edge-day Iraq and Iran. They are as implementing as their Egyptian opposite numbers and additionally served non secular purposes, however they differed in some ways: ziggurats had numerous terraced ranges rather than the pyramids’ flat partitions, they did not have indoors chambers and that they had temples on the pinnacle in place of tombs inside.

“A ziggurat is a sacred building, basically a temple on a platform with a staircase,” stated Maddalena Rumor, an Ancient Near-East professional at Case Western Reserve University withinside the US. “The earliest temples display easy buildings of one-room shrines on a mild platform. Over time, temples and structures have been time and again reconstructed and expanded, developing in complexity and size, reaching their maximum ideal form withinside the multi-stage Ziggurat [of Ur].”

The Ziggurat of Ur became constructed a chunk later (approximately 680 years after the primary pyramids), however it’s far famend due to the fact it’s far one of the best-preserved, and additionally due to its vicinity in Ur, which holds a outstanding vicinity in records books. According to Rumor, Mesopotamia became the foundation of synthetic irrigation: the humans of Ur cut canals and ditches to adjust the waft of water and irrigate land in addition from the Euphrates River banks. Ur is likewise believed to be the birthplace of biblical Abraham and, as Ashraf defined even as he walked us thru the ruined partitions of the town, the house of the primary code of law, the Code of Ur-Nammu, written round 2100 BCE – four hundred years earlier than Babylonia’s better-recognized Code of Hammurabi.

“In Mesopotamia, each town became believed to were based and constructed as the house of a god/goddess… who acted as its protector and political authority,” Rumor stated. In Ur, that became Nanna the moon god – for whom the ziggurat became built as a secular domestic and temple. “The cult of Nanna evolved very early across the decrease path of the Euphrates (on the centre of which became Ur) in reference to the herding of cows and the cycles of nature that improved the herd,” she stated.

The structure’s decrease degrees stay these days, aleven though the temple and higher terraces on the pinnacle were lost. To determine out what they regarded like, experts have used all sorts of era and historical writings (from historians like Herodotus, in addition to the Bible). In her 2016 paper, A Ziggurat and the Moon, Amelia Sparavigna, an archaeological imaging professional with the Polytechnic University of Turin, wrote, “[Ziggurats] have been pyramidal systems with a flat pinnacle, with a middle made of sun-baked bricks, protected with the aid of using fired bricks. The facings have been frequently glazed in exclusive colours…”.

Based on remnants located on the web website online, it has been usually agreed that the Ziggurat of Ur held a cerulean temple sitting atop big dust-brick degrees. The base by myself consisted of greater than 720,000 meticulously stacked dust bricks, weighing as much as 15kg every. Reflecting Sumerian understanding of the lunar and sun cycles, every of the ziggurat’s 4 corners pointed in a cardinal course as precise as a compass, and a grand staircase to the higher ranges became orientated in the direction of the summer time season solstice sunrise.

I may want to see the stays of this first-rate fulfillment as Ashraf led me and the opposite few travelers to the primary staircase. He is aware of the web website online well: he moved right here together along with his father 38 years in the past to help with archaeological digs, and his own circle of relatives domestic lies simply steps from the doorway. Once I reached the summit, I may want to believe the historical state sprawling out in each course heaps of years in the past.

King Ur-Nammu laid the ziggurat’s first brick in 2100 BCE, and production became later finished with the aid of using his son King Shulgi, with the aid of using which period the town became the flourishing capital of Mesopotamia. But with the aid of using the sixth Century BCE, the ziggurat became in ruins way to the wilderness’s excessive warmth and cruel sand. King Nabonidus of Babylonia got to work restoring it round 550 BCE, however in preference to re-growing the unique 3 degrees, he constructed seven, aligning with different grandiose Babylonian systems of the time, which include the Etemenanki ziggurat, which some agree with became the famed tower of Babel.

The bulk of the ziggurat stays intact these days in large part because of 3 ingenious improvements with the aid of using the unique Sumerian engineers.


First became ventilation. As with different ziggurats, this one became built with a middle of dust bricks surrounded with the aid of using an outdoors of sun-baked bricks. And considering that that middle retained moisture that would have caused the general degradation of the structure, the Sumerians bored masses of rectangular holes into the outer partitions to permit for brief evaporation. Rumor defined that with out this detail, “the dust-brick interiors may want to melt throughout heavy rains, and eventually bulge or collapse”.

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