History of Construction of 12 Historical Buildings Literature Review

Pages: 24 (6960 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

History Of Construction 26 Buildings

History of the Construction of 12 Buildings

Construction of the Ziggurat

According to Gwendolyn Leick, an expert in Mesopotamian archaeology, "No ziggurats have survived enough to reconstruct either access or the high temple with any certainty" (Leick 108). Despite this lack of material specificity about what was on top of the ziggurat, ancient ziggurat remains give important clues about their material structure, their building process, and their purpose.

Research consensus indicates that the finished ziggurat was an artificial mountain of successive platforms whose size diminished upward. Its masonry was mud brick and rubble mortared together and faced with burnt brick. Kostof writes, "The core was of mud-brick, and the thick facing of baked brick was set in bitumen mortar" (Kostof 57). The structures were solid and unsophisticated, without rooms inside them as appears later with the pyramid chambers. Nonetheless, they were carefully measured out and laid over the established walls of pre-existing dilapidated structures (Leick 13-14).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Literature Review on History of Construction of 12 Historical Buildings Assignment

Scholars have a good idea that the ziggurat was constructed in graduated steps of distinct stages. Frankfort describes them as "staged towers with the shrine placed upon superimposed blocks of masonry, each smaller than the one below" (Frankfort 22). The reason for the staging is partially the material. Nuttgens says, "The short life of mud brick meant that constant rebuilding was required, but since the god owned the temple area in perpetuity, each successive rebuilding took place on an accumulative platform made from the debris of previous temples" (Nuttgens 24). In other words, the effect of height was achieved by subsuming the previous building, making it the new platform. Kostof describes the process this way: "The ziggurat had swelled to grandiose proportions in stages by absorbing the frames of earlier temples, which in accordance with local practice would be filled solid after serving their time, to be used as terraces for the replacement structure" (Kostof 56). The walls of the ziggurat were sloped and striped with diagonal fluting. Most ziggurats had a monumental ramp or staircase for top access. These ramps and stairs were both lateral and perpendicular to the facing of the ziggurat, and were richly carved with fierce images. Frankfort has shown, however, that some later Assyrian ziggurats did not have stair or access ramps, and access to the top may have been through sky bridges from nearby gatehouses (Frankfort 139).

According to Nuttgens, the roof was "finished off with plaited reeds or corbelling" (Nuttgens 25). He also thinks that the high priest's grave could have been embedded in the built over platform. With little doubt, the top of a ziggurat supported a temple where priestly duties were carried out. Because of the solid core, the functional activity of the ziggurat was confined to its top platform and whatever temple structure sat on it. As Leick says, "Only the highest level was used for ritual purposes, an elevated platform where the 'high temple' . . . was placed" (Leick 108). It may have had hanging gardens and trees on the upper terrace as well. The temple was considered the dwelling of a god. Herodotus describes the top-most platform as containing the bed-chambers of the gods. From this vantage point, the god could approach earth from heaven and rule over the fields and city from its landmark. Temple precincts could incorporate free-standing ziggurats.

What is impressive about the ziggurat in the history of architecture is the height it achieved. While the technology used to build ziggurats is still a mystery, it must have involved intensive human labor involving the use of ramps to build upward. Kostof discuses a stele from Ur that shows a process of sweeping soil away from the site on native rock and filling the foundation trenches with purified earth. The stele also depicts the king carrying a measuring rod and line, as well as builder's tools such as picks, compasses, and mortar baskets. This gives some indication of how the building was constructed and how it was commissioned by a king. Kostof believes that ziggurats were first built by Sumerian mountain people who came down to the flat alluvial plains to recreate atavistically their original homeland.

The ziggurat was built on a spiritual model. Its "mountain" was the communicatory stage where pilgrims or officiating priests could ascend a natural ladder into the sphere of the deities (what Kostof describes as "reverential climbing"), and the gods could likewise descend. In the building, sky and earth were linked, corresponding to Mesopotamian notions of a layered universe. Leick writes, "The names of some of the stepped pyramids, known as ziggurats, also reflect their function as a cosmic feature; the one in Babylon was called e.temen.an.ki 'House (of) the foundation of Heaven and Earth'" (Leick 108). In other words, the ziggurat reflected in its structure a cosmic geography common in the religion of the times.

Construction of Great Ziggurat of Ur (ca 2100 BC)

The Great Ziggurat of Ur is the best preserved of the thirty odd Mesopotamian tower-shrines. Its dimensions are 200 by 150 feet, and its height is estimated at 70 feet (not including the temple shrine at the top which no longer exists). McIntosh writes, "The Ur III ziggurats, epitomized by the well-preserved example at Ur itself, consisted of three staged tiers, sloping inward, with a platform at each stage, accessed by a triple stair on one side; later examples, such as that at Dur Sharrukin, might alternatively be approached via a spiral ramp" (McIntosh 201-02). Unlike the Egyptian pyramids, there has been much less study done on this ziggurat and the records are much more scant for imagining its original construction. However, there are some things scholars know.

Like other ziggurats, it was built of bricks of two kinds. Klein and Klein write, "Simple sun-dried bricks, forming the inner core of the tower, were surrounded by a thick jacket of fired or burnt bricks, eight feet thick" (Klein and Klein 34). This construction made it strong, durable, and time-resistant, which is why the building still stands (although now there is an American military base encroaching on its precinct). As with other ziggurats, it was probably built by intensive labor gangs of peasants and slaves, the same who built roads, temples, and the extensive network of irrigation canals (McIntosh 83). It served people who were once hunters now turned farmers. All the abundant groves of wheat, barley, dates, figs, grapes, as well as pastures, were thought to flow to the temple (religion) or the palace (ruler). It was the people's tithes and taxes, which were closely supervised, that paid for its construction. On top was a priestly shrine, now gone, that was likely 100 feet above ground. The shrine was dedicated to the worship of the moon god Nanna-Sin, and was likely considered a portal for the gods to descend to earth.

Who built the Great Ziggurat of Ur? Scholars are unanimous in believing it was Ur-Nammu, the monarch of the third Ur (Chaldean) dynasty whose reign was ca. 2114-2096 BCE. This is supported by inscriptions from a later date (during the time of Nabonidus), which indicate that a great ziggurat was built, but not finished during Ur-Nammu's life. Based on this inscription, Klein and Klein write, "Then Dungi, son of Ur-Nammu, came to the throne and completed the tower, known usually as the Ziggurat of Ur" (Klein and Klein 36). That Ur-Nammu built it is consistent with what we know of Ur-Nammu's building program. The founder of the third Babylonian dynasty, according to McIntosh, undertook extensive restoration and building program in religious centers, including royal mausoleums, palaces, treasuries, as well as the ziggurat of Ur (McIntosh 82-83). Foster and Foster give further evidence:

At Ur, the capital city of the new dynasty, Ur-Nammu undertook numerous building projects, some of which were shown within traditional registers on a stele depicting busy construction scenes, with workers on ladders and the king himself carrying tools. . . . At its center, he built the first ziggurat, a massive three-stage structure of solid brick, both sun-dried and baked, its corners oriented to the cardinal points, with three steep staircases joining and leading to a sanctary at the top. (Foster and Foster 62)

The great ziggurat became a model for other ziggurats at Eridu, Uruk, and Nippur. Stiebing writes, "Under Ur-Nammu, the temple-platform attained its classic form as a ziggurat, a monumental stepped pyramid-like structure with several stages or levels" (Stiebing 76).

Besides the building's immense size, it is important architecturally for its ingenious drainage system. The Chaldeans knew that bricks swell in rain or floods and could burst the walls of the ziggurat. Therefore, they employed a useful prevention technique. They pierced the walls with drainage ducts ("weeper holes") through which interior moisture could pass out. This innovation worked in conjunction with bitumen from pitch or crude petroleum used as mortar to waterproof buildings. McIntosh explains: "Courses of reed matting and layers of bitumen were interspersed between those of brick in the construction of ziggurats to counteract rising… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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