Ancient Babylonia - Archaeology
The Hammurapi Stele
Clay Model of a Sheep's Liver
Sheeps Liver Cuneiform
Israelite Seal to Pedaiah
Clay Cylinder of Nabopolassar
The Striding Lion
The Ishtar Gate
The Dragon of Marduk
The Babylonian Chronicles
Basalt Block Inscription
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.
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.
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.
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.
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