In Dhi Qar Province, in the very south of Iraq, there is an ancient structure called The Great Ziggurat of Ur. It is located next to the ruins of the city of Ur, which was a legendary Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia. 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.
The ziggurat is the most distinctive architectural invention of the Ancient Near East. Like an ancient Egyptian pyramid, an ancient Near Eastern ziggurat has four sides and rises up to the realm of the gods. However, unlike Egyptian pyramids, the exterior of Ziggurats were not smooth but tiered to accommodate the work which took place at the structure as well as the administrative oversight and religious rituals essential to Ancient Near Eastern cities.
History of Great Ziggurat of Ur
The Ziggurat was built by the Sumerian King Ur-Nammu and his son Shulgi in approximately the 21st century BCE (short chronology) during the Third Dynasty of Ur. The massive step pyramid measured 210 feet (64m) in length, 150 feet (46m) in width, and over 100 feet (30m) in height. The height is speculative, as only the foundations of the Sumerian ziggurat have survived.
Eventually, Ur became the most powerful city and controlled almost all of ancient Mesopotamia at the time. In order to gain the allegiance of the newly conquered city-states and display his great power, King Shulgi announced himself as a god to the Mesopotamians. However, very soon after his death, Ur began to decline and with it, the ziggurat slowly became more ruins than a temple.
The remains of the ziggurat as we know it today were first discovered in 1850 by William Loftus. But it took more than 70 years for more extensive excavations to take place. The name that sticks around this first thorough explorations is Sir Leonard Wooley, in a project backed up by The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum. The Ziggurat of Ur is one of the three well-preserved structures of the Neo-Sumerian period.
The Ziggurat at Ur has been restored twice. The first restoration was in antiquity. The last Neo-Babylonian king, Nabodinus, apparently replaced the two upper terraces of the structure in the 6th-century B.C.E. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein restored the façade of the massive lower foundation of the ziggurat, including the three monumental staircases leading up to the gate at the first terrace.
Stunning Photos of Great Ziggurat of Ur
A UH-60 Black Hawk hovers above the ancient Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Oct. 11, 2009. The helicopter was piloted by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Darren Dreher and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thaddeus Simpson of the Illinois Army National Guard. The Ziggurat, constructed in 2,100 B.C. by Sumerian King Ur-Nammu, is preserved by the Iraqi Ministry of Antiquities. Photo by Pfc. Ernest Sivia III, 4th Brigade Combat Team.
U.S. Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade make their way up the stairs of the 4,000-year-old Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq, near Contingency Operating Base Adder, May 18, 2010. Photo by Spc. Samantha Ciaramitaro.
The Ziggurat at Ur. Most of the third level, the temple, and the arch at the top of the staircase have collapsed, but most of it remains standing, and tours are provided by a third-generation Iraqi caretaker.
How to get to the Great Ziggurat of Ur?
Ur, modern Tall al-Muqayyar or Tell el-Muqayyar, Iraq, an important city of ancient southern Mesopotamia. Access to the shrine would have been by a series of ramps on one side of the ziggurat or by a spiral ramp from base to summit. The Mesopotamian ziggurats were not places for public worship or ceremonies.
- Take a flight to Baghdad. There are numerous flights from Europe or İstanbul, making your trip to Baghdad very practical;
- Take a taxi or public bus from Baghdad to Tall all-Muqayyar;
- Get a 10 minutes walk from the center of Tall all-Muqayyar to the ruins of Great Ziggurat of Ur.