A ziggurat is a massive pyramid-like structure that was commonly found in ancient Mesopotamia and western Iran. They had the form of terraced steps of successively receding storeys or levels, usually ranging from two to seven high. They were constructed from mud-bricks with a square or rectangular base and sloping walls.
The ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites, Assyrians, and others built ziggurats for religious purposes, and often included the ziggurat as part of a larger temple complex of other buildings. The oldest known ziggurat is the Sialk ziggurat in Kashan, Iran, which dates back to the early-3rd millennium BCE.
The earliest ziggurats were built as oval, rectangular or square platforms, with stacked squares of diminishing size, and a flat top. What distinguished them from a step pyramid was that stairs would allow people to climb from level to level.
The core of the ziggurat would be made up of sun-baked bricks, while the exterior would have been faced with fired bricks. These were often glazed in different colours according to what is believed to have been astrological significance, and were sometimes engraved with the names of kings.
Herodotus wrote that at the top of each ziggurat was a shrine which could have been where rituals were carried out. Although, on a practical level, the height of the ziggurat would allow the priests to escape floodwaters that regularly inundated the lowlands.
One of the best-preserved ziggurats is Chogha Zanbil in western Iran. Other notable examples include:
- Great Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq.
- Ziggurat of Aqar Quf, near Baghdad, Iraq.
- Sailk, near Kashan, Iran.
- Etemenanki, Babylon (now destroyed).
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
The HESPR top pick for this week features a call for three Heritage Impact Assessments in Northampton, closing 16/09.
England’s Heritage Open Days celebrates it’s 25th year with 25 new places opening their doors. Take advantage of a huge range of regular and one-off opportunities!
You may think there are quite a few London Underground stations, and you’d be right as there are 270 stations in total on the network, yet there could have been many many more yet there are so many that never saw the light of day.
The city of Bath is well known for its stunning architecture and beautiful stone, but few might consider the everyday details like lighting.
A property company has been ordered to pay £25,000 following unauthorised work on a listed building following a prosecution by Cotswold District Council.
New guidance from Natural England has been published on how to create a landscape sensitivity assessment to inform decisions on the planning and management of land use change which influence spatial planning.
Civil contractor Spencer Group is giving staff wearable devices that allow them to log their mood and monitor their emotional wellbeing.
The (MRPQ) will no longer apply if there’s a no-deal Brexit, and the UK government will maintain a system of recognition for architects with an approved qualification from an European Economic Area (EEA) state or Switzerland.