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Posted by on Feb 24, 2022 in TellMeWhy |

What Would You Say about a Ziggurat?

What Would You Say about a Ziggurat?

What Would You Say about a Ziggurat? The Ziggurat is a type of temple tower that was constructed in ancient Babylon and Assyria. A ziggurat is similar to a pyramid, except instead of rising straight up, it rises in phases. A shrine or altar is located at the top of each ramp that leads from one level to the next. 

The ziggurats of Ur, built before 2000 BC, were constructed of bricks over hard clay and faced with tiles. The Great Ziggurat was built as a place of worship, dedicated to the moon god Nanna, in the Sumerian city of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia. Today, after more than 4,000 years, the ziggurat is still well preserved in large parts as the only major remainder of Ur in present-day southern Iraq.

The main function of the ziggurat was to raise the god’s primary servant—usually a high priest for a male deity or a high priestess for a goddess—to a position halfway between the earth and the sky. Since the gods were thought to reside high above, getting as close to their domain as possible was necessary in order to have a clear conversation with them. After this was done, the god was believed to dwell for a while on Earth in the statue found inside the temple atop the ziggurat.

No shrine has survived, but Herodotus claims that there was one atop every ziggurat. Providing a high point from which the priests could escape the rising water that yearly flooded lowlands and often extended hundreds of miles, as it did in 1967, was one of the practical purposes of the ziggurats.

Security was one of the ziggurat’s other useful purposes. The shrine was only reachable by three stairways, so a few guards could keep non-priests from watching the ceremonies taking place at the shrine atop the ziggurat, like preparing food for sacrifice and burning the carcasses of sacrificed animals. A city was constructed around each ziggurat, which was a component of a temple complex that also contained dwelling quarters, storage rooms, restrooms, and a courtyard.

The most well-known ziggurat in history is the Tower of Babel, which is connected to the massive Babylonian ziggurat known as Etemenanki, also referred to as “the foundation of heaven and earth,” and made famous by the biblical account found in Genesis 11:1–9. The Ziggurat of Ur, which was started during the reign of Ur-Nammu (2047–2030 BCE) and finished during the reign of his son and successor, Shulgi of Ur (2029–1982), is the best-preserved ziggurat that still exists today.

The second-best preserved is Chogha Zanbil, which is situated in the present Iranian province of Khuzestan and was constructed around 1250 BCE during the reign of the Elamite monarch Untash-Napirisha (r. c. 1275–1240 BCE). All around the Near East, there are a great number of ziggurats that are badly preserved, and many more have been destroyed by the reuse of the materials. Approximately 3000 BCE to 500 BCE saw the use of ziggurats before Persian Zoroastrianism altered the religious landscape of the area. Interestingly, civilisations in the Americas that had no interaction with Mesopotamia constructed structures similar to this one.

Content for this question contributed by Sean Burgar, resident of Oceanside, California, USA