Mesopotamia, or “the land between two rivers,” was the base that civilizations built themselves on. It was also the stage where many of them crumbled. The rich culture and religion of Mesopotamia included many gods and goddesses, whom many of these were strongly associated with the forces of nature. The Mesopotamians sought a way that would bring them closer to their gods and goddesses, and they did so by building great structures called Ziggurats.
A Ziggurat is a pyramidal structure mainly composed of mud bricks. The word “ziggurat” stems from the ancient Akkadian word “ziqqurratum” which was developed from the verb zqaru, which translated is ‘to be high’ (The British Museum). The Mesopotamians believed that, by building these grand structures, they would be building something to bring them closer to the religious realm of heaven and connect that realm to Earth. The Ziggurat served as a temple, a shrine, and, quite possibly a burial site (Fiero 28), although it is not known that these Ziggurats had any internal chambers for this purpose. These structures were a symbol of the mountain where the Heavens and Earth was linked (Fiero 28). The shrine rooms were tended to by the priests and priestesses, and it was also a place where tablets inscribed, in cuneiform, with the economic activities, the rites, as well as the religious customs of the city, was kept.
The Mesopotamian culture left many of these Ziggurats to endure the debilitating grip of time, and today, we know of about twenty-five Ziggurats. Located in Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria, some of them are larger than others, such as the Ziggurat at Elam, while others are better preserved, such as the Ziggurat at Ur, which was partially reconstructed to preserve much of its former glory. The great Tower of Babel was even associated with the ziggurat of the great temple of Marduk in Babylonia (2013 Merriam-Webster). At the Tell Asmar in Sumer, great statues carved from soft stone stand in its shrine room. Various sized statues of men and women with large eyes, clasped hands and stiff posture were created to reflect the vulnerability of people and their insecurities (Fiero 29).
The Ziggurat is one of the greatest and more memorable religious artifacts of Mesopotamia. Even though it is unknown if the Ziggurat was also used as a burial site, these grand structures served very well as a spiritual temple brought the people of Mesopotamia closer to the religious realm and connected that realm to Earth. With its many tablets kept inside, it provided historical artifacts for the archaeologists of today’s day and age, so that we can better understand the customs and history of this great culture.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 November 2016
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