Mesopatamian Ziggurat

A ziggurat "to build on a raised area" is a temple tower of the ancient Mesopotamian valley and Iran, having the form of a terraced pyramid of successively receding stories.

Ziggurats were a form of temple common to the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia.The earliest examples of the ziggurat date from the end of the third millennium BCE and the latest date from the 6th century BCE.

Built in receding tiers upon a rectangular, oval, or square platform, the ziggurat was a pyramidal structure. Sun-baked bricks made up the core of the ziggurat with facings of fired bricks on the outside. The facings were often glazed in different colors and may have had astrological significance.

The number of tiers ranged from two to seven, with a shrine or temple at the summit. Access to the shrine was provided by a series of ramps on one side of the ziggurat or by a spiral ramp from base to summit.

Notable examples of this structure include the Great Ziggurat of Ur and Khorsabad in Mesopotamia.

The Mesopotamian ziggurats were not places for public worship or ceremonies. They were believed to be dwelling places for the gods. Through the ziggurat the gods could be close to mankind and each city had its own patron god.

Only priests were permitted inside the ziggurat and it was their responsibility to care for the gods and attend to their needs. As a result the priests were very powerful members of Sumerian society.

There are 32 known ziggurats near Mesopotamia. Four of them are in Iran, and the rest are mostly in Iraq. The most recent to be discovered was Sialk, in central Iran.

One of the best preserved ziggurats is Choqa Zanbil in western Iran, which has survived despite the devastating eight year Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's in which many archeological sites were destroyed.

The Sialk, in Kashan, Iran, is the oldest known zigurrat, dating to the early 3rd millennium BCE.

Ziggurat designs ranged from simple bases upon which a temple sat, to marvels of mathematics and construction which spanned several terraced stories and were topped with a temple.