L. Ziggurat at Ur. R. Model
(2150 BCE - 1800 BCE)
3rd millennium BCE Mesopotamian Neo-Sumerian Architecture
c. 2100 BCE
3rd millennium BCE
It was during the Neo-Sumerian period that the great ziggurats, like the one shown here, were constructed. This enormous pile of sundried brick served as the base for a temple. We are not yet certain whether such massive bases were built for earlier Sumerian temples, but it is probable that the bases gradually became taller as temples were rebuilt, finally evolving into the massive forms seen here. Unfortunately, the vulnerability of sun-dried brick to the depredations of time and weather has made it very difficult to trace the development of the ziggurat form. The reconstruction of a ziggurat with a temple shown on the right illustrates the ramps and the successive platforms. The terraces were originally faced with baked ceramic tiles which served not only as protection, but also added color to the edifice. The immense amount of labor that went into the building of these artificial mountains, plus the work that was involved in just climbing to the top to celebrate various religious rituals indicates what an important role religion played in the lives of these early people. In the temples at the top of these symbolic sacred mountains the gods descended to contact man. It is thought that the ritual of the sacred marriage took place in these lofty temples. The political organization of the state developed around these temples. It was the priests of the temples who had the leisure to study the heavens in order to learn the will of the gods; a study that gave birth both to astrology and astronomy. The priests also developed writing, a gift which further increased man's awareness of himself and his place in the flow of time.
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