Marveling at the “Great Ziggurat of Ur”

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
January 31, 2024

 It was built approximately 4,100 years ago by King Ur-Nammu of the Neo-Sumerian Empire.

The Great Ziggurat of Ur is one of the most recognizable monuments in the history of Mesopotamia, as well as the world. To this day, the iconic step pyramid, with its 4,000+-year-old original foundations still intact, supporting relatively recent restorations, can be visited at Tell al-Mukayyar, near the modern-day Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, just a little over 200 miles south of Baghdad.

Great Ziggurat (Ur) - Madain Project (en)

The Ziggurat of Ur was originally built in 2100 BC, by King Ur-Nammu, who dedicated it to the moon god Nanna, Ur’s patron deity. The structure’s measurements, consisting of mud brick, baked brick and bitumen to hold it together, are 210 ft. (64 m.) in length, 150 ft. (46 m.) in width, and its height is speculated to have been over 100 ft. (30 m.).

By the 6th century BC, the Ziggurat had crumbled, and King Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, took it upon himself to order the restoration of the great shrine.

Thank you, King Nabonidus! The Ziggurat of Ur has seen much since it was built thousands of years ago, including the recent wars in Iraq, which did damage it some, but the iconic structure still towers over the land where it stands today.

Now, let’s marvel at this iconic piece of history through the years, with pictures, from the early 19th century AD, when it was first described, to the present day.

The 1850’s

“The ruins of the ziggurat as they appeared when visited by William Loftus in the 1850s.”

The 1920’s

The Ziggurat in the 1920’s, as Sir Leonard Woolley saw it.

March 17-18, 1920.  “The west corner of the ziggurat of Ur along the northwest side; Messrs. Bull and Shelton, and Prof. Breasted in the foreground, March 17-18 (Courtesy Oriental Institute)” (Archaeology Maggazine)

The Ziggurat of Ur in the late 1920s.

The 1980’s

The Ziggurat of Ur in the 1980’s, partially rebuilt by Saddam Hussein.

The Ziggurat of Ur in 2006

The Ziggurat of Ur in 2012.

(Did you notice that there are no pictures dating from the 40’s, 50’s or 90’s? None seem to exist, unless we missed them. If you know where we can find any from those decades, please let us know as we’d love to include them!)

*Update: We originally had a picture from the 1930s, but the link is dead, so we took it out, as we could not find any other from that time we can attribute or be sure is from that decade.