Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Art of the Ancient Near East

What is a ziggurat?

A ziggurat is a mountain-like structure formed by a series of steps and topped with a temple or a shrine. Placing shrines and temples at a higher elevation served both practical and religious purposes. Practically speaking, the higher elevation would protect the religious structure from flooding or attack. It also served to glorify the ruler and the gods worshipped at the site. Ziggurats represented a place where heaven and earth met.

The ruins of the White Temple at Uruk are located in what is now known as Warka, Iraq. This temple was part of a ziggurat dedicated to the Sumerian god Anu, and housed statues of gods, goddesses, and temple patrons. It was oriented along the points of the compass and had a central chamber with an altar for religious rituals.


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