Anu Ziggurat Of Uruk, White Temple To Sky God Anu In Mesopotamia. Oldest City On Earth Warka, Iraq

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Mesopotamia some 6000 years ago, one of the cradle of civilizations and the birthplace of the first writing system.

In the fertile valley between the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates the earliest cities arose, among them was the city Uruk.

The city was associated with the Sky God Anu, the Chief Deity of the Sumerians, and near the centre of the city the inhabitants built a temple which towered above the fortification wall.

Situated in the modern city of Warka in Iraq, Uruk was clearly one of the most important places in Southern Mesopotamia.

It’s one of the first cities in the world and was populated without interruption for 5000 years.

In the western area of the city centre a multiple phased terrace was discovered, the Anu Ziggurat of Uruk, which was the greatest monument of the city.

A ziggurat is a raised platform or terrace with four sloping sides, looking somewhat like a chopped off pyramid.

Ziggurats are made of mud-bricks just like the Egyptian Mastaba’s I spoke about in the Step Pyramid of Djoser video.

Stone was rare in Mesopotamia, so it wasn’t used much as construction material.

Ziggurats were not only a visual focal point of the city, they were symbolic as well, seeing the ziggurat towering above the city one would make the visual connection to the God or Goddess honored there and recognize the deity’s political authority.

The ziggurats were at the heart of the Theocratic political system, a theocracy is a type of government where a God is recognized as rules, and the state officials operate on the God’s behalf.

The purpose of a ziggurat itself is to get the temple that is constructed at the top closer to the heavens.

The Mesopotamians believed that the ziggurats connected heaven and earth.

The ziggurat of Uruk was constructed in the great Anu District, few remains of writing have been found in this district.

The Anu district consists of 1 single massive terrace; The Anu Ziggurat.

The terrace had been extended and raised at least 10 times until it reached it final height of approximately 12 meters.

The surface area of the top of the terrace measured approximately 45 by 50 meters, the ziggurat is radiocarbon-dated to have been constructed between 4000 BCE and 3500 BCE.

The surface of the top was coated with bitumen, a tar or pitch like material, similar to was is used for road paving in modern times.

The bitumen was overlaid with brick which functioned as a firm and waterproof foundation a building on top of the ziggurat, called the White Temple, which was built as a dedication to the Sky God Anu.

Anu was the divine personification of the Sky, the Supreme God and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion.

He was the supreme source of all authority, for both the mortal rulers and the other gods, in one text he is described as “the one who contains the entire universe”.

The temple get its name from the fact that it was entirely white washed from the inside and outside, giving it an unparalleled brightness in strong sunlight, much like the pyramids in Giza would a thousand years later.

The white temple was rectangular in shape, measuring 17,5 by 22,3 meters and each corner was oriented to a cardinal point.

The temple’s white plastered walls were divided by niches, multiple pedestals and multiple staircases which led to the roof and a probable second floor.

It’s a typical Uruk “High Temple” with a three parts plan (also known as Tri-partite plan) a long rectangular central hall with rooms on either side.



Household Archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon: A Case Study from Kenan Tepe, Turkey © 2009 by Catherine Painter Foster

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