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Stamped in the centre of this baked mud brick is a short inscription.
It says:

'Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who cares for Esagila and Ezida, eldest son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon.'

King Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 604–562 BC) rebuilt the city of Babylon (southern Iraq) on a grand scale. As many as 15 million bricks were used to make palaces, temples and grand city walls.

The text on this brick celebrates Nebuchadnezzar’s work on the temples of the supreme god Marduk (Esagila) and his son, Nabu (Ezida). Bricks just like this were also used to build the enormous stepped temple tower (ziggurat) which dominated Babylon’s skyline. This ziggurat served as the inspiration for the Biblical Tower of Babel.

Very little survives of the once great ziggurat. After Babylon fell from power, its high quality bricks were recycled for other buildings. Later European travellers sought to find the site of the Tower of Babel. They ‘found’ it in the remains of the ziggurat in nearby Borsippa.

Babylon boasted two Wonders of the Ancient World. Its massive city walls were one. The other was the Hanging Gardens supposedly built by Nebuchadnezzar to remind his homesick wife of her home in the mountains of Iran. No evidence survives for the Gardens at Babylon. But there was a long tradition of royal parks and gardens in Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq).

Details

  • Title: A building block from Babel
  • Date Created: -604/-562
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 32.50cm; Width: 32.00cm; Length: 16.00cm (stamp); Width: 10.30cm (stamp)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: stamped
  • Registration number: 1825,0503.26
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Abu Habba
  • Period/culture: Neo-Babylonian Dynasty
  • Material: fired clay
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Ruler Nebuchadnezzar II
  • Acquisition: Previous owner/ex-collection Rich, Claudius James. Purchased from Rich, Mary

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