Ziggurat of Ur

The Ziggurat (or Great Ziggurat) of Ur (Sumerian: 𒂍𒋼𒅎𒅍 é-temen-ní-gùru "Etemenniguru",[1] meaning "temple whose foundation creates aura")[2] is a Neo-Sumerian ziggurat in what was the city of Ur near Nasiriyah, in present-day Dhi Qar Province, Iraq. The structure was built during the Early Bronze Age (21st century BCE) but had crumbled to ruins by the 6th century BCE of the Neo-Babylonian period, when it was restored by King Nabonidus.

Its remains were excavated in the 1920s and 1930s by Sir Leonard Woolley. Under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, they were encased by a partial reconstruction of the façade and the monumental staircase. The Ziggurat of Ur is the best-preserved of those known from Iran and Iraq, besides the ziggurat of Dur Untash (Chogha Zanbil).[3] It is one of three well preserved structures of the Neo-Sumerian city of Ur, along with the Royal Mausolea and the Palace of Ur-Nammu (the E-hursag).

Ziggurat of Ur
Ancient ziggurat at Ali Air Base Iraq 2005
Partially reconstructed facade and the access staircase of the ziggurat. The actual remains of the Neo-Babylonian structure can be seen at the top.
Ziggurat of Ur is located in Iraq
Ziggurat of Ur
Shown within Iraq
Alternative nameGreat Ziggurat of Ur
LocationTell el-Muqayyar, Dhi Qar Province, Iraq
Coordinates30°57′46″N 46°6′11″E / 30.96278°N 46.10306°ECoordinates: 30°57′46″N 46°6′11″E / 30.96278°N 46.10306°E
Part ofUr
FoundedApproximately 21st century BCE

Sumerian ziggurat

Ziggurat of ur
Reconstruction of Ur-Nammu's ziggurat, based on the 1939 reconstruction by Woolley (vol. V, fig. 1.4)

The ziggurat was built by King Ur-Nammu who dedicated the great ziggurat of Ur in honour of Nanna/Sîn, in approximately the 21st century BCE (short chronology) during the Third Dynasty of Ur.[2] The massive step pyramid measured 64 m (210 ft) in length, 45 m (148 ft) in width and over 30 m (98 ft) in height. The height is speculative, as only the foundations of the Sumerian ziggurat have survived.

The ziggurat was a piece in a temple complex that served as an administrative center for the city, and which was a shrine of the moon god Nanna, the patron deity of Ur.[4]

The construction of the ziggurat was finished in the 21st century BCE by King Shulgi, who, in order to win the allegiance of cities, proclaimed himself a god. During his 48-year reign, the city of Ur grew to be the capital of a state controlling much of Mesopotamia. Many ziggurats were made by stacking mud-bricks up and using mud to seal them together.

Neo-Babylonian restoration

King Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BCE, after "finding little left but the last stage and nothing to guide him as to the monument's original appearance", had it restored in seven stages rather than three.[5]

Excavation and preservation

The remains of the ziggurat were first discovered by William Loftus in 1850.[6] The first excavations at the site were conducted by John George Taylor (mistakenly credited as "J. E. Taylor")[7] in the 1850s, leading to the identification of the site as Ur. After World War I, preliminary excavations were performed by Reginald Campbell Thompson and Henry Hall. The site was extensively excavated in the 1920s by Sir Leonard Woolley by appointment of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum in the period of 1922 to 1934.

The remains of the ziggurat consist of a three-layered solid mass of mud brick faced with burnt bricks set in bitumen. The lowest layer corresponds to the original construction of Ur-Nammu, while the two upper layers are part of the Neo-Babylonian restorations.[8] The façade of the lowest level and the monumental staircase were rebuilt under the orders of Saddam Hussein.[9]

The ziggurat was damaged in the Gulf War in 1991 by small arms fire and the structure was shaken by explosions.[10] Four bomb craters can be seen nearby and the walls of the ziggurat are marred by over 400 bullet holes.[11]

As of 2008, the site is under the supervision of curator Dief Mohssein Naiif al-Gizzy.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Klein, Jacob (1981). Three Šulgi hymns: Sumerian royal hymns glorifying King Šulgi of Ur. Bar-Ilan University Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-965-226-018-5.
  2. ^ a b "The Ziggurat of Ur". British Museum. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  3. ^ Heinrich, Ernst (1982). Die Tempel und Heiligtümer im Alten Mesopotamien. Typologie, Morphologie und Geschichte. 1. Berlin: de Gruyter. p. 341. ISBN 9783110085310.
  4. ^ Gardner, Helen; Kleiner, Fred S.; Mamiya, Christin J. (2005). Gardner's Art Through the Ages. Thomson Wadsworth. p. 1150. ISBN 9780155050907.
  5. ^ Ring, Trudy; Salkin, Rober M.; La Boda, Sharon (1994). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Middle East and Africa. 4. Taylor & Francis. p. 719. ISBN 9781884964039.
  6. ^  Boulger, George Simonds (1893). "Loftus, William Kennett" . In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 34. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 80–81.
  7. ^ Sollberger, E. (1972). "Mr. Taylor in Chaldaea". Anatolian Studies. British Institute at Ankara. 22: 129–139. JSTOR 3642557.
  8. ^ Woolley, C. Leonard (1972) [1939]. The Ziggurat and its Surroundings. Ur Excavations. 5. Trustees of the Two Museums.
  9. ^ Marozzi, Justin (8 August 2016). "Lost cities #1: Babylon – how war almost erased 'mankind's greatest heritage site'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  10. ^ Handwerk, Brian (21 March 2013). "Iraq War Threatens Ancient Treasures". National Geographic News. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  11. ^ Inati, Shams Constantine (2003). Iraq: Its History, People and Politics. New York: Humanity Books. p. 31. ISBN 9781591020967.
  12. ^ "Stock Photo - Mar 01, 2008 - Tallil, Iraq - Curator DIEF MOHSSEIN NAIIF AL-GIZZY shows one of the royal tombs at the Sumerian ruins next to the Ziggurat of Ur. Al-Gizzy is the third". Alamy. ZUMA Press. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2017.

Further reading

  • Woolley, C. Leonard and Moorey, P. R. S., Ur of the Chaldees: Revised and Updated Edition of Sir Leonard Woolley's Excavations at Ur, Cornell University Press (1982).

External links

21st century BC in architecture

See also:

20th century BC in architecture,

other events of the 21st century BC,

22nd century BC in architecture and the

architecture timeline.

Ahwar of Southern Iraq

The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in south Iraq.

The Ahwar currently consists of seven sites, including three cities of Sumerian origin and four wetland areas of the Mesopotamian Marshes:

Huwaizah Marshes

Central Marshes

East Hammar Marshes

West Hammar Marshes

Uruk Archaeological City

Ur Archaeological City

Tell Eridu Archaeological Site

Archaeology awareness playing cards

The archaeology awareness playing cards are a set of playing cards developed by the United States Department of Defense designed to educate members of the United States military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan about the importance of respecting ancient monuments, to try to preserve the Iraqi and Afghan national cultural heritage. The goal of the publication of the cards was two-fold according to Fort Drum archaeologist Laurie Rush - to prevent unnecessary damage to ancient sites and to stem the illegal trade of artifacts in Iraq. The military has long recognized that educational playing cards are a good way to capitalize on the time soldiers spend waiting for orders.

They were devised following the success of the most-wanted Iraqi playing cards (officially called "personality identification playing cards") that were used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq to help members of the U.S. military identify wanted personnel from the Baathist regime. Approximately 40,000 sets of the cards were issued to U.S. forces. In the archaeology deck, each suit has a theme: diamonds for artifacts, spades for digs, hearts for "winning hearts and minds," and clubs for heritage preservation.

Architecture of Mesopotamia

The architecture of Mesopotamia is ancient architecture of the region of the Tigris–Euphrates river system (also known as Mesopotamia), encompassing several distinct cultures and spanning a period from the 10th millennium BC, when the first permanent structures were built, to the 6th century BC. Among the Mesopotamian architectural accomplishments are the development of urban planning, the courtyard house, and ziggurats. No architectural profession existed in Mesopotamia; however, scribes drafted and managed construction for the government, nobility, or royalty.

Culture of Iraq

Iraq has one of the world's oldest cultural histories. Iraq is where the Ancient Mesopotamian civilizations were, whose legacy went on to influence and shape the civilizations of the Old World. Culturally, Iraq has a very long and rich heritage. The country is known for its poets and its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class. Iraq is known for producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets. The architecture of Iraq is seen in the sprawling metropolis of Baghdad, where the construction is mostly new, with some islands of exquisite old buildings and compounds, and elsewhere in thousands of ancient and modern sites across Iraq.

Unlike many Arab countries, Iraq embraces and celebrates the achievements of its past in pre-Islamic times. What is now Iraq was once the Cradle of Civilization in Ancient Mesopotamia and the culture of Sumer, where writing and the wheel were invented. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Islamic Abbasid Caliph's presided over what was then one of the world's richest civilizations.



Ehursag (ÉḪURSAG, É.ḪAR.SAG, ekharsag) is a Sumerian term meaning "house of the mountains".Sumerian ÉḪURSAG is written as a special ligature (ÉPAxGÍN 𒂍𒉺𒂅), sometimes etymologized as É.ḪAR.SAG (𒂍𒄯𒊕), written with the signs É "temple" (or "house"), ḪAR "mountain" and SAG "head".

Ehursag is commonly associated with a temple of Enlil discovered by Sir. Charles Leonard Woolley during excavations at Ur in modern-day Iraq. He originally considered this to be a palace, a view that was later rejected in replace for a temple. The location of the royal palace at Ur remains unknown. No graves were discovered under the Ekursag during these excavations. Woolley eventually conceded that it was a "minor temple of some sort." Modern scholars still vary on their interpretations of it as a temple, palace or administrative building. It has even been suggested to be a wing or annex of the main temple, having had some of its foundations destroyed. Stamped bricks used in the construction of the foundations revealed that they were built by Ur-Nammu of the Third Dynasty of Ur. Bricks from the pavement bore the stamp of his successor, Shulgi and later ones of the Isin-Larsa period after Ur was destroyed by Elamites. Ehursag is also the name or epithet of Ninhursag's temple at Hiza and has been suggested to have been an interchangeable word with Enamtila. The Ehursag at Ur was restored in 1961 using ancient and modern bricks, a 2008 report for the British Museum noted that this had collapsed in some areas, especially the northwest corner.

Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum

Ennigaldi-Nanna's museum is thought to be the first museum by some historians, although this is speculative. It dates to circa 530 BCE. The curator was Princess Ennigaldi, the daughter of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It was located in the state of Ur, located in the modern-day Dhi Qar Governorate of Iraq, roughly 150 metres (490 ft) southeast of the famous Ziggurat of Ur.

Lament for Ur

The Lament for Ur, or Lamentation over the city of Ur is a Sumerian lament composed around the time of the fall of Ur to the Elamites and the end of the city's third dynasty (c. 2000 BC).


Nasiriyah (Arabic: الناصرية‎; BGN: An Nāşirīyah; also spelled Nassiriya or Nasiriya) is a city in Iraq. It is situated along the banks of the Euphrates River, about 225 miles (370 km) southeast of Baghdad, near the ruins of the ancient city of Ur. It is the capital of the Dhi Qar Governorate. Its population 2003 was about 560,000, making it the fourth largest city in Iraq. It had a religiously diverse population of Muslims, Mandaeans and Jews in the early 20th century, but today its inhabitants are predominantly Shia Muslims.Nasiriyah was founded by the Muntafiq tribe in the late 19th century during the Ottoman era. It has since become a major hub for transportation. Nasiriyah is the center of a date-growing area. The city's cottage industries include boat-building, carpentry and silver working. The city museum has a large collection of Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Abbasid artifacts. The ruins of the ancient cities of Ur and Larsa are located nearby.

Neo-Sumerian art

Neo-Sumerian art is a period in the art of Mesopotamia made during the Third Dynasty of Ur or Neo-Sumerian period, c. 2112 BC – c. 2004 BC, in Southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). It is known mostly for the revival of the Sumerian stylistic qualities and was centered around royalty and divinity.

The art of the Neo-Sumerian period was also influenced by the Akkadians, whose period of rule preceded this. Many large temples and ziggurats were built in this period, most of which possessed monumental staircases. These staircases were probably thought to be used by divinity, for ascending and descending between heaven and Earth. The temple at the bottom of the stairs was created as a home for the god/gods that the temple worshiped. As for Neo-Sumerian sculptures, the many prayer statues of Gudea were the most common for this period, although in fact his reign ended a few years before the Third Dynasty of Ur. Usually these statues would present the patesi (see also, Ensi), with a shaved head and face, and wearing a monk like robe. The statues of human figures of the Neo-Sumerian period were known for their distinct eyebrows, lips, and fingers. Overall, the architecture, as well as the sculpture of the Neo-Sumerians, presented a strong theme of serene majesty and intense religious fervor. Other themes that were characteristic of Neo-Sumerian art are the themes of force and power, the creation of a strong capital, and religious ceremonial artifacts.


Shulgi (𒀭𒂄𒄀 dŠulgi, formerly read as Dungi) of Ur was the second king of the Sumerian Renaissance in the Third Dynasty of Ur. He reigned for 48 years, from c. 2029 – 1982 BC (short chronology) or (c. 2094–c. 2047 BC). His accomplishments include the completion of construction of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, begun by his father Ur-Nammu.

Sin (mythology)

Sīn or Suen (Akkadian: 𒂗𒍪 Su'en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: 𒀭𒋀𒆠 DŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with the Semitic Sīn. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sīn's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north. A moon god by the same name was also worshipped in South Arabia.

Sīn was also a protector of shepherds. During the period in which Ur exercised supremacy over the Euphrates valley (between 2600 and 2400 BC), Sīn was considered the supreme god. It was then that he was designated as "father of the gods", "head of the gods" or "creator of all things".

Sīn was also called "He whose heart can not be read" and was told that "he could see farther than all the gods". It is said that every new moon, the gods gather together from him to make predictions about the future.

Step pyramid

A step pyramid or stepped pyramid is an architectural structure that uses flat platforms, or steps, receding from the ground up, to achieve a completed shape similar to a geometric pyramid. Step pyramids are structures which characterized several cultures throughout history, in several locations throughout the world. These pyramids typically are large and made of several layers of stone. The term refers to pyramids of similar design that emerged separately from one another, as there are no firmly established connections between the different civilizations that built them.


A tower is a tall structure, taller than it is wide, often by a significant margin. Towers are distinguished from masts by their lack of guy-wires and are therefore, along with tall buildings, self-supporting structures.

Towers are specifically distinguished from "buildings" in that they are not built to be habitable but to serve other functions. The principal function is the use of their height to enable various functions to be achieved including: visibility of other features attached to the tower such clock towers; as part of a larger structure or device to increase the visibility of the surroundings for defensive purposes as in a fortified building such as a castle; as a structure for observation for leisure purposes; or as a structure for telecommunication purposes.Towers can be stand alone structures or be supported by adjacent buildings or can be a feature on top of a large structure or building.


Ur was an important Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar (Arabic: تل المقير‎) in south Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate. Although Ur was once a coastal city near the mouth of the Euphrates on the Persian Gulf, the coastline has shifted and the city is now well inland, on the south bank of the Euphrates, 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) from Nasiriyah in modern-day Iraq.The city dates from the Ubaid period circa 3800 BC, and is recorded in written history as a city-state from the 26th century BC, its first recorded king being Mesannepada.

The city's patron deity was Nanna (in Akkadian, Sin), the Sumerian and Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian) moon god, and the name of the city is in origin derived from the god's name, URIM2KI being the classical Sumerian spelling of LAK-32.UNUGKI, literally "the abode (UNUG) of Nanna (LAK-32)".The site is marked by the partially restored ruins of the Ziggurat of Ur, which contained the shrine of Nanna, excavated in the 1930s. The temple was built in the 21st century BC (short chronology), during the reign of Ur-Nammu and was reconstructed in the 6th century BC by Nabonidus, the Assyrian-born last king of Babylon. The ruins cover an area of 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) northwest to southeast by 800 metres (2,600 ft) northeast to southwest and rise up to about 20 metres (66 ft) above the present plain level.


Ur-Nammu (or Ur-Namma, Ur-Engur, Ur-Gur, Sumerian: 𒌨𒀭𒇉, ca. 2047-2030 BC short chronology) founded the Sumerian Third Dynasty of Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, following several centuries of Akkadian and Gutian rule. His main achievement was state-building, and Ur-Nammu is chiefly remembered today for his legal code, the Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest known surviving example in the world.

Ur of the Chaldees

Ur Kaśdim (אוּר כַּשְׂדִּים ʾur kasdim), commonly translated as Ur of the Chaldees, is a city mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the birthplace of the Israelite and Ismaelite patriarch Abraham. In 1862, Henry Rawlinson identified Ur Kaśdim with Tell el-Muqayyar, near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. In 1927, Leonard Woolley excavated the site and identified it as a Sumerian archaeological site where the Chaldeans were to settle around the 9th century BCE. Recent archaeology work has continued to focus on the location in Nasiriyah, where the ancient Ziggurat of Ur is located.Other sites traditionally thought to be Abraham's birthplace are in the vicinity of the Assyrian city of Edessa (Şanlıurfa in modern south eastern Turkey). Some Jewish authorities, such as Maimonides and Josephus, placed Ur Kaśdim at various Upper Mesopotamian or southeast Anatolian sites such as Urkesh, Urartu, Urfa or Kutha.

William Loftus

William Kennett Loftus (13 November 1820, Linton, Kent – 27 November 1858, at sea) was a British geologist, naturalist, explorer and archaeological excavator. He discovered the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk in 1849.


A ziggurat ( ZIG-uu-rat; Akkadian: ziqqurat, D-stem of zaqāru 'to build on a raised area') is a type of massive structure built in ancient Mesopotamia. It has the form of a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels. Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, the now destroyed Etemenanki in Babylon, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān and Sialk.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.