The pyramids of Egypt are fairly well known to students in the Western world. Some study is made of them in the elementary grades. The ziggurats of Mesopotamia (mostly present day Iraq) are not as well known. In Egypt we have some pyramids, like the great pyramids of Giza, which are still standing to almost their original height. Having been made of stone, they have been fairly well preserved.
The ziggurats of Mesopotamia were made of baked bricks. Over the centuries they have tended to become piles of mud. The only one I saw during my only visit to Iraq in May, 1970, that had any semblance of a defined shape was the ziggurat at Ur. That was because it had been reconstructed up to about the fourth story.
The ziggurat was a staged temple tower. The temple at the top of the tower was considered the dwelling place of the particular god worshiped at a site. The kings of Ur are thought to have built the first ziggurat about the 27th century B.C., though some may have been erected on older structures going back to about 3100-2900 B.C. (The Middle East, Hachette World Guides, 1966). A model, like the one below from the Pergamum Museum in Berlin gives us a good impression of the original appearance of the ziggurats.
Every now and then I search the Internet for photos of Iraq. Sometimes I locate a nice photo made by a soldier who has been stationed there. One day I came across a really great photo on Flickr made by Josh McFall. It took a while to track down Josh and ask his permission to use the photo on the web site. He enthusiastically grated permission, only asking that I comply with the attached Creative Commons license. That, I was pleased to do. The Creative Commons license on this photo requires Attribution, Non-commercial Use, and No Derivative works. Josh, I am sure many of my readers thank you.
The ziggurat at Ur is attributed to the third dynasty of Ur (2124-2015 B.C.).
Perhaps we should think of something like the ziggurats when we study the account of the building of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4 ESV)
And it might help with the understanding of what Jacob saw in his dream at Bethel.
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! (Genesis 28:12 ESV)
When John calls attention to this scene he says the angels were ascending and descending on the “Son of Man” (John 1:51).
Both photos are available in presentation size for those who would like to use them. Just click on the image.