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Ur ziggurat after the reconstruction

A ziggurat (also Schiggorat, Ziqqurrat, Zikkurat, Ziggurat, Babylonian "towering / piled up, heavenly hill , god mountain") is a stepped temple tower in Mesopotamia . The biblical tradition of the Tower of Babel goes back to such a construction, according to current knowledge. The early Sumerian poetry Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta also mentions a language confusion in connection with large building projects.


The emergence of the ziggurats from a terrace with a temple on top is considered likely. Mostly, a development in southern Mesopotamia since the 5th millennium BC. Adopted. However, earlier forms of temple terraces continued to exist alongside the ziggurats. Ziggurats from the second half of the 3rd millennium have also been found in Elam in southwestern Iran. Excavations in the south-eastern part of Iran in the province of Kerman brought to light two hills / terraces ( Konar Sandal A and B ) in a settlement discovered there , whereby Sandal B is a ziggurat system from the first half of the third millennium should have.


Ziggurat by Tschoga Zanbil
Ziggurat Tappe Sialk

Approximately 25 ruins of ziggurat structures can be found in Mesopotamia , especially in Babylonia . The most famous ziggurat, that of the moon god Nanna , is located in Ur on what is now Iraq . The architecture of a ziggurat can best be understood from the ziggurat of the Kassite royal seat of Dur Kurigalzu , where a ziggurat core has been particularly well preserved. Ziggurats were also built in neighboring Elam , which differed from the Sumerian-Babylonian in that they were accessed by internal stairs. There are also some special structural features. The oldest building is in Tappe Sialk and dates back to 2900 BC. Dated BC, the best preserved in Tschoga Zanbil (Elamite Dur Untash) today has a remaining height of 25 m (once around 50 m) and a side length of 105 m.


The common features that all ziggurats (in Babylonia , Assyria and Elam ) have in common are the step shape (from two to seven such steps, decreasing towards the top) as well as their two main structures consisting of a shell ( bricks ) and a core (unfired air-dried clay bricks with straw mat layers).

It is difficult to prove today whether a deep temple and a high temple existed. At least in Babylon and Borsippa the existence of such a two-part structure of the sanctuary appears to have been proven since the late Babylonian period.

  • Babylon: Etemenanki (high temple) - Esagila (low temple)
  1. É-TEMEN-AN-KI - "House of the foundations of heaven and earth"
  2. É-SA-GIL - "House of the raised head (Marduk)"
  • Borsippa: Euriminanki (high temple) - Ezida (low temple)
  1. É-ÙR-IMIN-AN-KI - "House of the seven roofs of heaven and earth"
  2. É-ZIDA - "House of Truth"

At least with these two buildings, in the case of the high temple, it does not seem to be a separate temple on the top of the tower, but an "opened" deep temple that vertically reflects all the details that also existed on the ground. Thus there is only the Holy of Holies ( cella ) at the top of the tower .

At the mainly rectangular South Babylonian ziggurats, a central central staircase in the form of a ramp was usually found. Additional staircases on both sides, based on the central staircase construction, also existed. The chronological classification of precisely these main features turns out to be partly impossible, as they have been built over at all times.

Some ziggurats


It is widely believed that the helical minaret of the Samarra mosque was built on the model of the ziggurat. An example of a ziggurat with an outer spiral ramp is the tower of Khorsabad . As demonstrated in the case of the seven-storey square ziggurat of Khorsabad for the ancient Near East, the top of the minaret can also be reached via a spiral-shaped outer ramp.


Dubai is currently planning under the name ziggurat developing a new kind of huge living pyramid. In the lead is the Dubai-based company for environmental design Timelink .

See also


Web links

Commons : Ziggurat  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Ziggurat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta
  2. Klengel-Brandt: Tower of Babylon , pp. 52–56.
  3. ^ Volkert Haas, Heidemarie Koch: Religions of the Old Orient. Volume I: Hittites and Iran . (Outlines of the Old Testament) Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2011, pp. 25–28
  4. Parrot counts 27 ( Ziggurats , 53–54) and Schmid 23 Ziggurats ( Temple Tower , Pl. I). But there are also some newly discovered ones in Iran.
  5. ^ Leonard Woolley: Ur in Chaldäa. Twelve years of excavations in Abraham's homeland . Brockhaus, Wiesbaden 1956. p. 210
  6. ^ A. Kose: spiral ramp of the Ziqqurrat of Dur-Šarrukin , pp. 115-137.
  7. ^ Parrot: Ziggurats , 59; J. Burton-Page: "Manara". In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam . New Edition. Vol. VI, Leiden 1991, pp. 364-5.
  8. The Ziggurat Project in Dubai (English)