Ancient Iraq: Borsippa

Some speculate there are more than 10,000 significant sites across this ancient landscape. A few standout because of their fame in literature, historical texts, and popular culture. Borsippa, located in the south of Iraq, is one of these places.

Borsippa (1854)World Monuments Fund


Southwest of Babylon, the ancient city of Borsippa became an important place of worship to the Mesopotanian god Nabu. In addition to the Nebuchadnezzar-era ziggurat, many visit Borsippa as pilgrims to a shrine to Prophet Abraham, which is located very near the ancient ruins. Pictured here is the ziggurat, looking down from a drone-fixed camera.

Borsippa (2017)World Monuments Fund

Ziggurat seen from west (-0900)World Monuments Fund

Borsippa, just a little over ten miles away from Babylon, may be be less known than its more famous neighbor, but its ziggurat, nonetheless, attracted archaeologists and visitors beginning in the 19th century.

The tongue ziggurat, as it is frequently called, is one of the most identifiable surviving structures of its kind in Iraq.

Ziggurat with the remains of an adjoining temple to God Nabu (1854)World Monuments Fund

Sunset behind the ziggurat (1854)World Monuments Fund

The ‘tongue tower,’ made of brick masonry held together by tie bars, is all that remains of the ziggurat’s pinnacle.

Ziggurat 'tongue tower' at Borsippa (-0900)World Monuments Fund

Ziggurat, seen from the northwest (-0900)World Monuments Fund

The still in-situ bricks of the ziggurat appear behind the excavation mounds left by archaeologists from earlier eras.

View of Borsippa ziggurat with garbage (-0900)World Monuments Fund

Like many archaeological sites around the world, Borsippa faces challenges that arise when a site management plan is lacking. As evident in this image, the accumulation of waste in the surrounding areas of the archaeological site affects the landscape from an aesthetic point of view and may also lead to future encroachment issues. The trash may also attract animals, which can harm the site and it also creates hazards for people visiting the area.

The successful implementation of a site management plan would benefit the site and surrounding community, as it would increase the desirability of the site as a destination. Effective and transparent communication, a solid management structure, and stronger affiliations between national and regional governments are just some of the elements that would be required to transform the site. There would also need to be educational programs, community outreach, and sustainable partnerships between local, regional, and national entities to assure protection and revitalization of the site.

Vendor with inflatable animalsWorld Monuments Fund

For all the scholarly reasons we might be interested in Borsippa, there can also be the joy of discovery some people think the site is a great backdrop for finding a new toy.

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