bab_scroll.gif Ancient Babylonia - Archaeology

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Gilgamesh Tablet

The Hammurapi Stele

Ancient Map

Clay Model of a Sheep's Liver

Mathematics Tablet

Sheeps Liver Cuneiform

Seal Impression

Israelite Seal to Pedaiah

Clay Cylinder of Nabopolassar

The Striding Lion

The Ishtar Gate

The Dragon of Marduk

Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon

The Babylonian Chronicles

Basalt Block Inscription

The Ziggurats

Nabonidus Stele

Cyrus Cylinder

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Babylonia

The modern recovery of the history of Babylonia began in the 19th century, following in the wake of the great archaeological discoveries in Assyria. Although initially the finds were not as spectacular as those in the northern region, the gradual exploration of Babylonia has awakened knowledge of its great civilization, which has developed throughout the 20th century.

Mounds

At the present time the area is filled with ruin-hills or mounds of accumulation of debris, which reveal the sites of ancient cities. Some of these cities were destroyed in a very early era, and were never rebuilt. Others were occupied for millenniums, and their history extends far into the Christian era. The antiquities generally found in the upper stratum of the mounds which were occupied up to so late a period, show that they were generally inhabited by the Jews, who lived there after the Babylonians had disappeared.

Excavations

There has been literally hundreds of thousands of inscriptions on clay and stone discovered on various sites in Iraq.

At Tello more than 60,000 tablets were found, belonging largely to the administrative archives of the temple of the 3 rd millennium BC.

At Nippur about 50,000 inscriptions were found, many of these also belonging to temple archives. But about 20,000 tablets and fragments found in that city came from the library of the school of the priests, which had been written in the 3 rd millennium BC.

At Sippar, fully 30,000 tablets were found, many being of the same general character, also representing a library.

At Delehem and Djokha, temple archives of the same period as those found at Tello have come to light in great numbers, through the illicit diggings of Arabs.

Babylon, Borsippa, Kish, Erech and many other cities have yielded to the explorer and the Arab diggers inscribed documents of every period of Babylonian history, and embracing almost every kind of literature, so that the museums and libraries of America and Europe have stored up unread inscriptions numbering hundreds of thousands. Many also are in the possession of private individuals.

The Ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon

Travelers and explorers have been drawn to Babylon for centuries, but serious archaeological research did not start until the mid 19th century. Much of the more recent work was carried out by German teams, but in the last few decades the task has been taken over by the Iraqi government. Almost everything that has been excavated relates to the great city built by Nebuchadnezzar II. The change in the course of the Euphrates River and a rise in the water table, along with the fact that king Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt the city so thoroughly, means that very little from before his time has been found or is likely to be.

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Many inscriptions in cuneiform have been found, which describe the city. There is also an account by the Greek historian Herodotus, who visited the city of Babylon in about 460 BC. These make it possible to attempt a reconstruction of Babylon in the height of its glory.

There was a vast double wall on both sides of the Euphrates River with 8 gates, at least one of which, the Ishtar Gate, was faced with glazed bricks depicting bulls and dragons. From the Ishtar Gate ran the Processional Way – a wide paved road flanked by walls decorated with glazed and gilded bricks showing lions and dragons, which led to the Temple of Marduk and the adjacent Tower of Babel ziggurat which reached to 300 feet high.

There were 4 other temples, and west of the Ishtar Gate stood 2 palace complexes. The German archaeologist Robert Koldewey, who excavated the site from 1899 to 1917, found vaults in one of these palaces which he believed to be the foundations of the legendary Hanging Gardens.

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The present site consists of several mounds which cover the remains of Nebuchadnezzar’s summer palace, the Ishtar Gate and a further palace complex, the Temple of Marduk and the ziggurat, and a residential area. A reconstruction has been made of the Ishtar Gate, and other works are being carried out by the Iraqi government.

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Ancient Babylonia

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