In other words, at every seven courses of stone, a layer of reed matting was laid and weep-holes and drainage shafts were placed, thus preserving the ziggurat from water damage.
Eventually the building fell into disrepair. Later, King Nabonidus restored the Ur ziggurat, along with other temples. Stiebing believes this was because he revered his mother's gods (285). Nabonidus claims in the clay cuneiform tablets found in the tower to have rebuilt it on the same foundations and using the same mortar and bricks. Ultimately it must have deteriorated after the Persian defeat by Cyrus in 539 BC.
Construction of Tower of Babylon (ca 600 BC)
While the biblical account of this great structure in Genesis 11 is perhaps legendary, scholars have come to view the "Tower of Babel" mentioned in the text as the ziggurat of the temple of Marduk in Babylon (known as Etemenanki). Expressing the scholarly consensus, Foster and Foster write, "In the Bible, the ziggurat of the temple of Marduk at Babylon was transmuted into the Tower of Babel, emblematic of the vain desire of the human race to rival God" (Foster and Foster 64). It was probably the most magnificent ziggurat of all, eclipsing its far earlier model at Ur. It is not unlikely that, since Babylon is only 700-800 miles from Jerusalem, travelers could have brought news of this building to the Jewish center. "Babel" apparently meant "the gates of Heaven" in Babylonian, which explains the Hebrew use of the word.
Scholars are uncertain who built the Esagila (temple of Marduk), but they are certain that Esarhaddon and Asshurbanipal refurbished it repeatedly, along with its ziggurat, Etemenanki. Any notion that the Tower is an example of the failure of project management by communication breakdowns stems from the biblical text. There is evidence that the structure was finished, but this idea of project mismanagement is important in signaling the length the project took to come to fruition (over the reign of many kings), its constant rebuilding and renovation, and the labor force used to build it, which would have consisted largely of conquered slaves from various lands who would have spoken different languages. Thus, the project would have been difficult in terms of the project managers' ability to communicate with those who did not speak Babylonian but were the actual labor force. Confusion on the work site is imaginable.
It was not until around 600 BC that this ziggurat received its definitive and most impressive expression -- growing to either seven or eight tiers with a base and a height of 300 square feet -- under the building program of Nebuchadrezzar. This powerful ruler sponsored a total architectural overhaul of the city's main structures, rebuilding the shrine and ziggurat of Marduk, constructing palaces, creating the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way, and placed immense defensive walls around the city (McIntosh 109). According to McIntosh, "The Etemenanki, the precinct containing the 'Tower of Babel,' was also fortified" (McIntosh 109). Thus appears the notion of building defended religious structures. During this full-scale renovation project around 600 BCE, the tower of Babel received the form that made it a world wonder. Stiebing writes, "Nebuchadnezzar embellished the eight-tiered ziggurat (whose name means 'House of the Foundation Platform of Heaven and Earth') with decorations and covered the temple at its top with blue glazed bricks" (Stiebing 283). This is consistent with McIntosh's finding that the Ziggurat of Marduk, or the Tower of Babel, was probably painted. She writes, "Ziggurats were apparently painted; the traditional colors for seven-tiered examples like those at Babylon and Dur-Sharrukin were, from the bottom up, white, black, red, blue, orange, silver, and gold" (McIntosh 202).
McIntosh briefly summarizes the history of its modern rediscovery:
Between 1899 and 1914, Koldewey surveyed the whole city of Babylon, establishing its plan, and excavated most of its principal buildings, including palaces, the massive walls surrounding the whole city, and the sacred precinct of the city's patron deity, Marduk. Here he located the ziggurat that was probably the Tower of Babel; unfortunately, after the departure of the German team the local people totally destroyed it, using its bricks for construction. (McIntosh 33)
Obviously this loss was one reason why the structure is less amenable to study. Nonetheless, the Babylonians were defeated eventually by the Assyrians, their great fortified city sacked, their leaders executed, and their people enslaved. Nothing is known of what happened to the Tower of Babylon until the interest of Hellenistic Greeks in ancient Mesopotamian...
Apparently enamored with the ziggurat of Marduk, Alexander the Great initiated its reconstruction but work ceased when he died.
Construction of Hanging Gardens of Babylon (ca 600 BC)
As legendary as the Tower of Babylon, the Hanging Gardens have never been satisfactorily located. Koldewey thought he had located them, but most dispute his claim since the place he designated was too far from a river source. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were reputed to have been built by Nebuchadrezzar for his Median queen, Amyitis. The earliest surviving mention of this is around 270 BCE in a Babylonian author named Berossus. According to McIntosh, "He wrote of a palace built by Nebuchadrezzar II in just fifteen days, in which a 'hanging garden' was constructed to please the king's Median queen, an edifice resembling a mountain with stone terraces planted with trees" (McIntosh 311). A further royal inscription described his palace as a high stone mountain, but no garden is mentioned. Later Greek descriptions fill out some details, indicating that the gardens were a tiered structure built on stone foundations with brickwork above and layers of reeds and bitumen. All these were standard features of Mesopotamian architecture, as in the ziggurats. If accurate, this points to a building with thick lower walls, foundations, and vaulted chambers to support a tiered superstructure. In addition, it would have to be close to a water source (the Euphrates River) from which water was raised. If Snell's analysis of the social conditions of Babylonian society is correct, then like the ziggurats the labor on the hanging gardens would have been done by peasants and slaves (Snell chapters 3-4). As with all ancient buildings, the designers are unknown, unless the king himself functioned in this capacity.
What makes the Hanging Gardens significant is in their use of irrigation to create an artificial environment that mimicked natural habitat. Nebuchadrezzar was not the first to make artificial pleasure gardens in a palace precinct that were stocked with exotic plants and animals (like a modern botanical garden). Foster and Foster attribute the founding of this tradition to Sennacherib. They write, "Many rulers of ancient Iraq and elsewhere had kept foreign plants and animals, but Sennacherib may have been the first to construct authentic habitats for them" (Foster and Foster 121). Construction of this type depended on a technology for capturing, raising, and distributing water.
How was this possible architecturally? Greek descriptions mention a secret architectural mechanism embedded in the gardens for providing water to all the plants. McIntosh writes, "A hidden mechanism fed the terraces with water to support the trees, and there were pavilions among the vegetation" (McIntosh 311). Foster and Foster mention that the Assyrian king Sennacherib "seems to have invented the water-raising machine we call the Archimedes screw" (Foster and Foster 121). This device is described in an inscription that dates well before Archimedes. For irrigation, they already used a device called a shaduf, which lifted water from canals for irrigation or into reservoirs. In the Hanging Gardens, water was not supplied by gardeners, since as McIntosh reasons, "To supply the hanging gardens with water in this way would have required an army of gardeners and, more importantly, would have been visible" (McIntosh 311). While the exact mechanism for supplying water to the gardens is inexactly known, the builders utilized some system of water-raising that was ingeniously hidden. It is known that Mesopotamian architects were experts in irrigation, having founded the first agrarian-based societies (Snell 36). The engineering technology was developed out of their expertise in irrigation systems. The tiered Hanging Gardens is the first known building that was constructed with such an engineered system for water-lifting.
Some have suggested they were a roof garden on top of a royal palace. Foster and Foster educe two recent studies that suggest other versions of what the Hanging Gardens may have looked like. The first vision, based on a garden relief from the Nineveh palace of Assurbanipal (668-627 B.C.E.), describes the structure as cascading from elaborate colonnades and terraces along the Khosr River banks. The second indicates a garden that is viewed from above. They write, "The other proposes that these were the world's first carpet gardens, intended to be admired from above, so that the flowers and shrubs appear wondrously suspended, a living, dazzling display of color and pattern" (Foster and Foster 122).
This shows the recent scholarly shift in understanding the origin and location of the gardens…
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