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).
it normally has 130 steps
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
The joint-institute document aims to help maintain cultural heritage by providing a consistent framework across different sectors & geographies
IHBC’s Gus Astley Student Awards 2021: Win £500 and a place on IHBC’s 2022 Aberdeen School with your built environment/heritage coursework, closes 31/07!
The last remaining buildings on the site of the Harris meat factory family’s historic mansion are being restored to their former glory and converted into new homes.
The Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum (CICV Forum) has unveiled a new guide to the crucial and increasingly complex issue of professional indemnity insurance (PII).
ICOMOS has advised that the new football stadium proposal, if implemented, would have a completely unacceptable major adverse impact its authenticity and integrity.
Responding to the changing working patterns of a post-Covid Scotland, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) has revealed new plans to help retrofit public spaces into out-of-town alternatives to city centre offices.
The free-to-access online issue mixes the topical and practical to explore how the sector can best adapt to digital innovation.
IHBC’s 2021 virtual conference examines how we can best change and sustain places for the benefit of people, led by expert practitioners boasting international, national and local profiles and experiences.
The 2021 winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards have been announced.
England’s Housing Minister has announced a £1.1 million fund to test the use of digital tools and data standards across 10 local areas.