The “ziggurat” was a famous feature of Mesopotamian architecture. Ziggurats were step-based structures built to honor the gods of Mesopotamia.
A ziggurat had a square base. The base of the ziggurat was the widest part, so they looked sort of like step pyramids. Most ziggurats had between two to seven levels, and each level got smaller as you went up, so it was narrowest at the top.
Some ziggurats remain in the world, such as the Ziggurat of Ur, a capital city of the Mesopotamian empire. Ziggurats were quite large – historians believe that the largest may have been the one at Babylon.
Studies show that the Ziggurat of Babylon had seven levels, reached a height of 300 feet, and had a base of 300 feet X 300 feet!
The ziggurat was always built with mud bricks in the middle, and baked bricks around the outside. This would both help to keep the outside of the ziggurat clean (they had a yellow color and were quite shiny!) and to keep the foundation strong from inside.
The most famous ziggurat in the world is the Ziggurat of Ur. This ziggurat was built using 720,000 baked bricks – a huge amount of stone! This ziggurat was built in worship of the moon god Nanna, the patron god of the city of Ur.
The structure would have been the highest point in the city and would have been visible for miles around. People would visit the ziggurat for enlightenment, and in the hopes of having their prayers answered by Nanna.
The Ziggurat of Ur was rebuilt twice. The last king of Babylon, Nabodinus, replaced the two upper terraces of the ziggurat around 600 BC. Many years later, in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein ordered the restoration of the outside of the lower foundation of the ziggurat, including the three monumental staircases leading to the gate at the first terrace.
Since this restoration, however, the Ziggurat at Ur has experienced some damage. It was damaged recently in a war and has not been repaired since.
Ziggurats were important places of worship in Mesopotamia. Every 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 was a sign of dedication to each city’s god. The reason people worshipped in the ziggurat was because they wanted to be as close to the heavens as possible when they said their prayers – they believed that this would help the gods to hear them!
It’s believed that the final ziggurats were built around 400 BC, as when Alexander the Great came to power at the end of the Mesopotamian Empire (333 BC) the greatest ziggurats had already fallen into ruin.
The tradition of building ziggurats did not continue into Alexander’s Mesopotamian Empire. This is why so many ziggurats around the world have not been renovated or rebuilt. In fact, the Ziggurat of Ur is one of the only ones that has.
– A famous feature of Mesopotamian architecture. A step-based structure built to honor the gods.
– Square base.
– Worship of the gods.
– The Ziggurat of Ur.
– Around/before 400 BC.