Z is for Ziggurat

| April 30, 2014

A ziggurat is a terraced step building with receding levels that was used primarily as a temple in ancient times and part of a temple complex. This temple complex included a courtyard, storage rooms, bathrooms, and living quarters. A city was then built around this complex.

Ziggurats were built by the Sumeraians, Babylonians, Elamites, Akkadians, and Assyrians.

Great intrigue surround the ziggurat, possibly stemming from the fact that they were not public places of worship, reserved only for priests. The ziggurat was a very secure structure due to the pyramid shape, the top shrine area was only accessible by three staircases and were guarded to prevent spying on priestly rituals. Unfortunately none of these shrines have survived. This top is similar to a gothic spire in that it is able to be seen for miles. The best surviving example is the Ziggurat of Ur located in present day Iraq. The Ziggurat of Ur is made of baked brick and mud brick. It was built around 2100 BCE by King Ur-Nammu for worship of the moon goddess Nanna (the patron of their city state).

Other functions for ziggurats are  places for priests to escape great floods and for food storage for the city.

The main difference between a ziggurat and a pyramid is the tiered exterior.