What is a Ziggurat?

Have you ever seen a giant, stepped pyramid structure in an ancient history documentary and wondered what it was? Those fascinating buildings are called ziggurats, and they were an important part of life in ancient Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamian Mountain Makers

Ziggurats were massive religious structures built by the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians in Mesopotamia, the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (mostly present-day Iraq). The word “ziggurat” itself comes from the Akkadian word “ziqquratu,” which means “built on a high place.”

Made from sun-dried mudbricks, ziggurats were built in a series of receding levels, giving them a tiered or stepped appearance. The most important temple or shrine was located at the very top, which could be reached by ramps or stairs on the outside of the structure.

Connecting Heaven and Earth

The Mesopotamians believed that ziggurats served as a connection between heaven and earth. They were like giant mountains built by humans to reach the gods. The ziggurat at Babylon, for example, was called the Etemenanki, which means “the house of the foundation of heaven and earth” in Sumerian.

More Than Just Temples

While religious ceremonies certainly took place on the top of ziggurats, there’s evidence they may have served other purposes as well. Some archaeologists believe they may have been astronomical observatories, or even storehouses for grain or other goods.


Ziggurats Today

Today, only ruins of ziggurats remain, but they still stand as a testament to the ingenuity and engineering skill of the ancient Mesopotamian people. The Great Ziggurat of Ur, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf, and the ruins of Chogha Zanbil are just a few examples you can still visit or see pictures of online.

So, the next time you come across an image of a stepped pyramid, you’ll know it’s a ziggurat, a fascinating structure from a bygone era.

The oldest Ziggurats in Iran

Here is a list of ancient ziggurats of Iran:

1-Sialk Ziggurat of Kashan

The world’s oldest ziggurat: It was built between 4700 and 4500 years ago, almost when writhing was invented. More than 125,000 bricks measuring 35 by 35 by 15 cm were used to build this ziggurat, which consists of three platforms on top of each other. The actual height of the ziggurat is unclear, but what remains of it today is 14 meters above ground level. The only access to the top of the ziggurat is a gentle slope ramp.


2-The Susa Ziggurat

Built about 3800 years ago which is now destroyed and we know about it from historical sources.


3-Konar Sandal Ziggurat

This recently discovered ziggurat is located in Jiroft area, and is remaining from the Jiroft civilization.
This ziggurat which is a thousand years older than zigurat in Choghazenbil, belonged to ancient Arta tribe. It has not yet been excavated completely.


4-Haft Tappeh 

Based on medieval Elemite excavations by Dr. Negahban in 1978, this structure was founded in 1357 BC.

Haft Tappeh, which is an ancient site in Khuzestan province, is located about 10 km southeast of the city of Susa and is a collection of ancient hills that probably contain the city of Tikni or Kabnak of Elam civilization.

The vastness of this ancient site has attracted the attention of various explorers. According to some theories, this city was one of the important political centers during the reign of the Elamites and the kingdom of Tepti ‌-Ahar in the fifteenth century BC, after which the city of Susa became the center of power, although there is no strong evidence to prove it. .

5-Chogha Zanbil 

Chogha Zanbil Is the largest and most intact known ziggurat in the world.
Located near the Haft-Tepe Ziggurat, Chogha Zanbil also belongs to the Middle Elamite period and was built in 1250 BC. The Russian-French archaeologist Roman Girshman carried out the first scientific excavations on an ancient mound where Chogha Zanbil existed beneath, and unveiled the five-storied ziggurat from under the soil. Three floors of this ziggurat have remained intact.

Ziggurat of Choghazanbil is located in Khuzestan province, 40 kilometers southeast of Susa and 20 kilometers from Haft-Tepeh, near the western bank of the Dez River.