TOWER OF BABEL STELE

MS 2063
MS Short Title TOWER OF BABEL STELE
Text ETEMENANKI: ZIKKURAT BABIBLI: "THE HOUSE, THE FOUNDATION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, ZIGGURAT IN BABYLON". CAPTION IDENTIFYING THE GREAT ZIGGURAT OF BABYLON, THE TOWER OF BABEL. THE ROYAL INSCRIPTION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR CONTINUES: NEBUCHADNEZZAR, KING OF BABYLON AM I - IN ORDER TO COMPLETE E-TEMEN-ANKI AND E-UR-ME-IMIN-ANKI I MOBILIZED ALL COUNTRIES EVERYWHERE, EACH AND EVERY RULER WHO HAD BEEN RAISED TO PROMINENCE OVER ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD – THE BASE I FILLED IN TO MAKE A HIGH TERRACE. I BUILT THEIR STRUCTURES WITH BITUMEN AND BAKED BRICK THROUGHOUT. I COMPLETED IT RAISING ITS TOP TO THE HEAVEN, MAKING IT GLEAM BRIGHT AS THE SUN-
Description MS in Neo Babylonian on black stone, Babylon, 604-562 BC, stele with rounded top, 47x25x11 cm, the back of the lower 2/3 missing, 3 columns, 3+24+24+24 lines in cuneiform script, to the left: carving of the Tower of Babel from a front view, clearly showing the relative proportions of the 7 stages including the temple on the top; to the right: the standing figure of Nebuchadnezzar II with his royal conical hat, holding a staff in his left hand and a scroll with the rebuilding plans of the Tower (or a foundation nail) in his outstretched right hand; at the top: a line drawing of the ground plan of the temple on the top, showing both the outer walls and the inner arrangement of rooms, including the one that once had a fine large couch in it, richly covered, and a gold table beside it, according to Herodotus : The Histories I:181; on the left edge: another line drawing of the ground plan of the temple.
Context

For bricks from the Tower of Babel, stamped with Nebuchadnezzar's name, used during the rebuilding, see MS 1815/1-3. For the only other known architect's plan of a known temple, see MS 3031.

The middle part of the inscription has been carefully erased, but the conquering ruler's inscription was never inserted instead. The same thing happened to the Law stele of Hammurapi, which was seized by the Elamites as war booty from Babylonia in the 12th century BC and taken to Susa, where it subsequently was found (Now in Louvre). This parallel, and archaeological and literary evidence (Ctesias c. 400 BC, and Aelian c.175-235 AD) leads to the possibility that also the Tower of Babel Stele was taken as war booty, most likely by Xerxes in the invasion in 483 BC. Like the Elamites before him, he kept a treasure-house of spoils of war at Susa, and possibly other sites as well. Actually one of the foundation cylinders of E-temen-anki was found in Susa during de Morgan's excavations at the end of the 19th century. But there can be no firm answers to these various possibilities. (See George pp. 163-165 in his publication mentioned below). More research details.

Commentary

The ziggurat in Babylon was originally built around the time of Hammurabi 1792-1750 BC. The restoration and enlargement began under Nabopolassar, and was finished after 43 years of work under Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BC. It has been calculated that at least 17 million bricks had to be made and fired. Babylon with the ziggurat was captured by Kyros 538 BC (who pulled down the 3 stair ramps so the tower could not be used as a fortress), Darius I 519 BC, Cyrus ca. 483 BC, and entirely taken down by Alexander I the Great 331 BC, due to the structural water damage caused by the removed ramps, but his rebuilding plans failed.

Until now our knowledge of the Tower of Babel has been based on the account in Genesis 11:1-9, and of Herodotus: The Histories I:178 - 182, with the measurement of the first 2 stages, and a Seleucid tablet of 229 BC (Louvre AO 6555), giving the sizes of the stages. However, no contemporary illustrations have been known, resulting in a long series of fanciful paintings throughout the art history until present. Here we have for the first time an illustration contemporary with Nebuchadnezzar II's restoring and enlargement of the Tower of Babel, and with a caption making the identity absolutely sure. We also have the building plans, as well as a short account of the reconstruction process. The text also mentions the restoration of the E-ur-imin-anki ziggurat in Borsippa, once believed by some scholars to be the Tower of Babel.

Published Andrew George, ed.: Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection, Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, vol. 17, Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, Cuneiform texts VI. CDL Press, Bethesda, MD, 2011, text 76, pp. 153-169, pls. LVIII-LXVII.
Exhibited Rounded top part only: 1. The Bibliophile Society of Norway's 75th anniversary. Bibliofilklubben 75 år. Jubileumsutstilling Bok og Samler, Universitetsbliblioteket 27.2 - 26.4.1997; 2. XVI Congress of the International Organization for the study of the Old Testament. Faculty of Law Library, University of Oslo, 29 July - 7 August 1998; 3. Tigris 25th anniversary exhibition. The Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, 30.1. - 15.9.2003 -
Place of origin Babylon
Dates 604 - 562 BC

Location