The beginnings of monumental architecture in Mesopotamia are usually considered to have been contemporary with the founding of the Sumerian cities and the invention of writing, in about 3100 BC. Conscious attempts at architectural design during this so-called Protoliterate period (c. 3400-c. 2900 BC) are recognizable in the construction of religious buildings. There is, however, one temple, at Abu Shahrayn (ancient Eridu), that is no more than a final rebuilding of a shrine the original foundation of which dates back to the beginning of the 4th millennium; the continuity of design has been thought by some to confirm the presence of the Sumerians throughout the temple’s history.

Already, in the Ubaid period (c. 5200-c.3500 BC), this temple anticipated most of the architectural characteristics of the typical Protoliterate Sumerian platform temple. It is built of mud brick on a raised plinth (platform base) of the same material, and its walls are ornamented on their outside surfaces with alternating buttresses (supports) and recesses. Tripartite in form, its long central sanctuary is flanked on two sides by subsidiary chambers, provided with an altar at one end and a freestanding offering table at the other.

Typical temples of the Protoliterate period–both the platform type and the type built at ground level–are, however, much more elaborate both in planning and ornament. Interior wall ornament often consists of a patterned mosaic of Terra cotta cones sunk into the wall, their exposed ends dipped in bright colors or sheathed in bronze. An open hall at the Sumerian city of Uruk (biblical Erech; modern Tall al-Warka’, Iraq) contains freestanding and attached brick columns that have been brilliantly decorated in this way. Alternatively, the internal-wall faces of a platform temple could be ornamented with mural paintings depicting mythical scenes, such as at ‘Uqair.

The two forms of temple – the platform variety and that built at ground level – persisted throughout the early dynasties of Sumerian history (c. 2900-c. 2400 BC). It is known that two of the platform temples originally stood within walled enclosures, oval in shape and containing, in addition to the temple, accommodation for priests. But the raised shrines themselves are lost, and their appearance can be judged only from facade ornaments discovered at Tall al-‘Ubayd. These devices, which were intended to relieve the monotony of sun-dried brick or mud plaster, include a huge copper-sheathed lintel, with animal figures modeled partly in the round; wooden columns sheathed in a patterned mosaic of colored stone or shell; and bands of copper-sheathed bulls and lions, modeled in relief but with projecting heads. The planning of ground-level temples continued to elaborate on a single theme: a rectangular sanctuary, entered on the cross axis, with altar, offering table, and pedestals for votive statuary (statues used for vicarious worship or intercession).

Considerably less is known about palaces or other secular buildings at this time. Circular brick columns and austerely simplified facades have been found at Kish (modern Tall al-Uhaimer, Iraq). Flat roofs, supported on palm trunks, must be assumed, although some knowledge of corbelled vaulting (a technique of spanning an opening like an arch by having successive cones of masonry project farther inward as they rise on each side off the gap)–and even of dome construction–is suggested by tombs at Ur, where a little stone was available.

The Sumerian temple was a small brick house that the god was supposed to visit periodically. It was ornamented so as to recall the reed houses built by the earliest Sumerians in the valley. This house, however, was set on a brick platform, which became larger and taller as time progressed until the platform at Ur (built around 2100 BC) was 150 by 200 feet (45 by 60 meters) and 75 feet (23 meters) high. These Mesopotamian temple platforms are called ziggurats, a word derived from the Assyrian ziqquratu, meaning “high.” They were symbols in themselves; the ziggurat at Ur was planted with trees to make it represent a mountain. There the god visited Earth, and the priests climbed to its top to worship.

Most cities were simple in structure, the ziggurat was one of the world’s first great architectural structures.

White Temple and Ziggurat, Uruk (Warka), 3200 -3000 B.C.

This temple was erected at Warka or Uruk (Sumer), probably about 300 B.C.It stood on a brick terrace, formed by the construction of successive buildings on the site (the Ziggurat). The top was reached by a staircase. The temple measured 22 x 17 meters (73 x 57 feet). Access to the temple was through three doors, the main located at its southern side.

Sumerian Artifacts – British Museum

Summerian Art and Architecture

Art and Architecture

More than 4,000 years ago the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers began to teem with life–first the Sumerian, then the Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean, and Persian empires. Here too excavations have unearthed evidence of great skill and artistry.

From Sumeria have come examples of fine works in marble, diorite, hammered gold, and lapis lazuli. Of the many portraits produced in this area, some of the best are those of Gudea, ruler of Lagash.

Some of the portraits are in marble, others, such as the one in the Louvre in Paris, are cut in gray-black diorite.

Dating from about 2400 BC, they have the smooth perfection and idealized features of the classical period in Sumerian art.

Sumerian art and architecture was ornate and complex. Clay was the Sumerians’ most abundant material. Stone, wood, and metal had to be imported.

Art was primarily used for religious purposes. Painting and sculpture was the main median used.

Marble Statues

The famous votive stone/ marble sculptures from Tell Asmar represent tall, bearded figures with huge, staring eyes and long, pleated skirts.

Enlarged eyes were found on many statues

The tallest figure is about 30 inches in height. He represents the god of vegetation. The next tallest represents a mother goddess-mother goddesses were common in many ancient cultures. They were worshipped in the hope that they would bring fertility to women and to crops. (Another connection to African culture.)

The next largest figures are priests. The smallest figures are worshippers – a definite hierarchy of size. This is an example of artistic iconography. We learn to read picture symbols—bodies are cylindrical and scarcely differentiated by gender, with their uplifted heads and hands clasped. This is a pose of supplication-wanting or waiting for something.

Ur yielded much outstanding Sumerian work, e.g., a wooden harp with the head of a bull on top, showing mythological scenes in gold and mosaic inlay on the sound box (c.2650 B.C., Univ. of Penn., Philadelphia).

Sumerian techniques and motifs were widely available because of the invention of cuneiform writing before 3000 B.C.

This system of writing developed before the last centuries of the 4th millennium B.C. in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, most likely by the Sumerians. The characters consist of arrangements of wedge-like strokes, generally on clay tablets. The history of the script is strikingly like that of the Egyptian hieroglyphic.

Among other Sumerian arts forms were the clay cylinder seals used to mark documents or property. They were highly sophisticated.

Sumerian Art

The art of the Sumerian civilization, as revealed by excavations at Ur, Babylon, Uruk (Erech), Mari, Kish, and Lagash, among other cities, was one of enormous power and originality that influenced all of the major cultures of ancient western Asia. Their techniques and motifs were made widely available by means of cuneiform writing, which they invented before 3000 B.C. Poor in the raw materials of art, the Sumerians traded crops from their fertile soil for the metal, stone, and wood that they required. Clay was their most abundant native material, and its qualities determined their style of baked-mud building and the nature of their fine-textured pottery.

Sumerian craftsmanship was of marked excellence from very early times. A vase in alabaster from Erech (c.3500 B.C.; Iraq Mus., Baghdad) shows a detailed ceremonial procession of men and animals to the fertility goddess Inanna, carved in four bands on an elegant vase shape. A major peak of artistic achievement is represented by a female head, called Lady of Warka (Erech) from about 3200 B.C. (Iraq Mus.). It is carved in white marble with simplicity and subtlety.

The vast royal cemetery at Ur has yielded many masterpieces of Sumerian work. Outstanding among these are a wooden harp detailed with gold and mosaic inlay picturing mythological scenes on the soundbox, surmounted by a black-bearded golden head of a bull (c.2650 B.C.; Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia); a gaming board of wood inlaid with bone, lapis lazuli, shell, and stone, mounted in bitumen (c.2700 B.C.; British Mus.); a ritual offering stand in the shape of a ram, made of silver, lapis lazuli, and mussel shells, rearing on his hind legs to eat from a tree of gold; and a splendid gold helmet fashioned from a single sheet of metal and beaten into the form of a head of wavy hair with a chignon at the back (c.2500 B.C.; Baghdad).

At Lagash a strongly modeled head of stone (c.2500 B.C.) portrays a Sumerian man, clearly representing the structural type of these ancient people. Its large and widely spaced features set on a heavy round skull are revealed in bas-relief and inlay work of the period. Examples of the famous votive stone sculptures of Sumer discovered at Tell Asmar represent tall, long-haired, bearded figures with huge, staring eyes and long, pleated skirts, standing rigidly with hands folded above the waist. Some are portrayed kneeling.

The ziggurat temple form was the most striking architectural achievement of the Sumerians. One ziggurat at Erech extended over an area of half a million square feet (46,500 sq m). It was set upon a mound, and the platform built to support its crowning shrine was 40 feet (12 m) high.

Among other Sumerian arts, one of the most sophisticated was the cylinder seal, a small carved cylinder of stone or metal that, when rolled over seals of moist clay, would leave the reverse image of its carving in relief as an identifying mark or signature. Used to mark documents and property, the cylinders were worn on a wristband or necklace during their owners’ lifetime and were buried with them. A great many examples survive, bearing primarily scenes of religious ritual, often portraying the legendary hero Gilgamesh.

With the ascent to power of Sargon of Akkad, Sumerian art reached new heights of expression, particularly in sculpture. The greatest known examples reflecting that splendor include a bronze head thought to be a portrait of Sargon himself (from Nineveh, c.2300 B.C.; Iraq Mus., Baghdad), from which the gemstone eyes have been stolen, and the stele of Naram-sin, a triumphal relief showing the deified grandson of Sargon in battle (2261–24 B.C.; Louvre). The Akkadians spread cuneiform writing throughout the Middle East, and even after the destruction of Sargon’s empire by invasions from the east in the latter part of the 3d millennium B.C., Sumerian artistic techniques and styles exerted profound influence on contemporary and later cultures. The city of Lagash survived the invasions and was beautified by its governor Gudea with numerous works of art. These were carved of dark, hard diorite; many represented the dignified and serene seated figure of Gudea himself. Although most are small in stature, they convey a sense of grandeur and monumentality. After the invasions the glory of Sumer was revived from 2200 to 2100 B.C. During this period the great ziggurat of the moon god at Ur was built.

Invasions of Semitic peoples from what are now Iran and Syria ended the last Sumerian golden age. The site of Mari has yielded the most complete archaeological evidence of Sumerian civilization during that transitional time. The great Mari royal palace with its labyrinthine corridors, frescoed walls, royal residential rooms, courts and temple buildings, and scribal school containing more than 25,000 cuneiform tablets, reveal the brilliance of a vanished world.

The Code of Hammurabi 18th Century BCE

Of the several law codes surviving from the ancient Middle East, the most famous after the Hebrew Torah is the Code of Hammurabi, sixth king of the Amorite Dynasty of Old Babylon. It is best known from a beautifully engraved diorite stela now in the Louvre Museum which also depicts the king receiving the law from Shamash, the god of justice. This copy was made long after Hammurabi’s time, and it is clear that his was a long-lasting contribution to Mesopotamian civil ization. It encodes many laws which had probably evolved over a long period of time, but is interesting to the general reader because of what it tells us about the attitudes and daily lives of the ancient Babylonians. In the following selection, most of the long prologue praising Hammurabi’s power and wisdom is omitted.

What do these laws tell us about attitudes toward slavery? What indication is there that some Babylonian women engaged in business? Clearly men had more rights than women in this society; but what laws can you identify that seem aimed at protecting certain rights of women? Which laws deviate from the egalitarian standard of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?” What qualities does this text say a ruler should have to enable him to write new laws?

. . . Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind. . . .

15: If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates [to escape], he shall be put to death.

16: If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the [police], the master of the house shall be put to death.

53: If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the [grain] which he has caused to be ruined.

54: If he be not able to replace the [grain], then he and his possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has flooded.

108: If a [woman wine-seller] does not accept [grain] according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water. (1)

109: If conspirators meet in the house of a [woman wine-seller], and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the [wine-seller] shall be put to death.

110: If a “sister of a god”[nun] open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.

129: If a man’s wife be surprised [having intercourse] with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.

130: If a man violate the wife (betrothed or child-wife) of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father’s house, and sleep with her and be surprised [caught], this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.

131: If a man bring a charge against [his] wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her house.

132: If the “finger is pointed” at a man’s wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump into the river for [the sake of her] husband. (2)

138: If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father’s house, and let her go.

141: If a man’s wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt [to go into business], tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offer her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he take another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband’s house.

142: If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house. (3)

143: If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.

195: If a son strike his father, his hands shall be [cut] off. (4)

196: If a [noble-]man put out the eye of another [noble-]man, his eye shall be put out. (5)

197: If he break another [noble-]man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.

198: If he put out the eye of a [commoner], or break the bone of a [commoner], he shall pay one [silver] mina.

199: If he put out the eye of a man’s slave, or break the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

200: If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

201: If he knock out the teeth of a [commoner], he shall pay one-third of a [silver] mina.

In future time, through all coming generations, let the king, who may be in the land, observe the words of righteousness which I have written on my monument; let him not alter the law of the land which I have given, the edicts which I have enacted; my monument let him not mar. If such a ruler have wisdom, and be able to keep his land in order, he shall observe the words which I have written in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of the land which I have given; the decisions which I have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects accordingly, speak justice to them, give right decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and grant prosperity to his subjects.

Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred right (or law) am I. My words are well considered; my deeds are not equaled; to bring low those that were high; to humble the proud, to expel insolence.

Translated by L. W. King (1915), edited by Paul Brians.

hammurabi’s code

Perhaps the most remarkable and influential creation of its time, Hammurabi’s code is the oldest set of laws known to exist. Hammurabi, king and chief priest of Babylonia from 1792-1750 B.C., expanded his empire greatly before focusing his energies toward wealth and justice for his people. He created a code protecting all classes of Babylonian society, including women and slaves. He sought protection of the weak from the powerful and the poor from the rich. The carving on the stone on which the code is written depicts Hammurabi receiving the divine laws from the sun god, the god most often associated with justice. This stone was unearthed by French archaeologists at S_sa, Iraq (ancient Elam), in 1901-02. The black diorite rock is 2.4 m high and had been broken into three pieces.

Hammurabi’s Code is 44 columns of text, 28 paragraphs of which contain the actual code. There are 282 laws (possibly more have been rubbed off) that probably amend common Babylonian law rather than define it. It describes regulations for legal procedure, fixes rates on services performed in most branches of commerce and describes property rights, personal injury, and penalties for false testimony and accusations. It has no laws regarding religion.

The Code of Hammurabi is significant because its creation allowed men, women, slaves, and all others to read and understand the laws that governed their lives in Babylon. It is unique in that laws of other civilizations were not written down, and thus could be manipulated to suite the rulers that dictated them. The Code is particularly just for its time. Although it follows the practice of “an eye for an eye”, it does not allow for vigilante justice, but rather demands a trial by judges. It also glorifies acts of peace and justice done during Hammurabi’s rule. It symbolizes not only the emergence of justice in the minds of men, but also man’s rise above ignorance and barbarism toward the peaceful and just societies still pursued today. In the words of Hammurabi as carved on the stone, “Let any oppressed man who has a cause come into the presence of my statue as king of justice, and have the inscription on my stele read out, and hear my precious words, that my stele may make the case clear to him; may he understand his cause, and may his heart be set at ease!”


Ancient Pyramids


As is well known there are literally hundreds of pyramids of various styles scattered over the Earth, in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Far East, Southeast Asia and South Pacific, and in North and South America. A few of these sites demonstrating the different styles are:

  • Iraq: The reconstructed ziggurat-pyramid at Ur, in ancient Sumer.
  • Egypt: The step pyramid at Saqqara.
  • Egypt: The smooth-walled pyramids at Giza. Hancock and Bauval (1996) suggest that the ‘ground plan’ of the three great pyramids was physically established in 10,500 bc, but that the pyramids were built around 2,500 bc. This supports the notion that the pyramid base rock with its underground chamber was an early AA terminal, and the Sphinx was the associated landmark easily identified from space.
  • Mexico: The highly decorated step pyramids at Chichen-Itza, Monte Alban, and elsewhere. In the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque, a shaft runs from the tomb up to the temple floor, similar to some of the Egyptian pyramids. There was initially a 40 ft “comb” on the top. Was this an additional identifying marker?
  • Mexico: The unusual elliptical pyramid at Uxmal.
  • Mexico: The huge, unexcavated pyramid at Cholula (Fig 4-1), in the shadow of the volcano, Popocatepetl (“El Popo”). Its ancient name, Tlachihualtepetl, means “man-made mountain”. On Quetzalcoatl’s pilgrimage his first stop was Cholula, which means ‘the place of flight’ in Nahuatl. The huge “Piramide Tepanapa”, 200 ft high and 1300 ft on a side, is the largest ancient pyramid in the Americas, and possibly the largest in the world. The earliest construction has been traced to 200 bc. It was covered with dirt to hide it from the invading Spaniards and a small shrine was placed at the top, which the Spanish replaced with a church (Fig 4-1). The small portion which has been excavated reveals remarkable masonry.

  • Mexico: Tres Zapotes, an Olmec site (1300 – 400 bc), was the first adobe-brick pyramid site in Mesoamerica. (Mystery buffs please note: Before the arrival of Cortez ALL of the Olmec sites were destroyed, except El Tijin, which had been abandoned!)

  • Mexico: The truncated cone pyramid of Cuicuilco. In 1917 Manuel Gamio, excavating off the road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, found an overgrown hill called ‘Cuicuilco’ enveloped by pre-historic lava streams. It turned out to be an enormous ancient pyramid or truncated cone with four galleries and central staircase. It is one of the few remaining round stepped pyramids. The base is 370 ft and it is about 60 ft high now, although it was originally much higher. Archeologist Paul Heinrich reports the age to be 800 to 600 bc, not 6000 bc as reported by others. (Miller, 2000)
  • Mexico: The beautiful miniature pyramid at Cecilia, D.F.
  • Mexico: The platform-pyramids at Teotenango, Tenayaca, and Tula.
  • Mexico: The multi-platform style of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan. In his discussion of Teotihuacan, John Michel (1995) quotes another researcher: “During the 1970s Hugh Harleston, Jr …established that ‘the basic unit of measurement at Teotihuacan was 1.0594 meters, the same unit which represents the ‘Jewish rod’ of 3.4757 ft., the same unit which represents the width of the Stonehenge lintels, a six-millionth part of the earth’s polar radius…’”
  • Guatemala: The huge pre-classic (150 bc-150 ad) Mayan site of El Mirador with its dozens of pyramids, including the Tigre Pyramid rising 18 stories high, probably the largest pyramid ever built by the Maya.
  • Peru: Moche Temple of the Sun. The earlier Moche built this temple-pyramid style pyramid from 140 million adobe bricks.
  • Peru: Sipan Pyramid. This Moche pyramid-tomb near the town of Sipan proves that some of the early SA pyramids were tombs, as in Egypt and Mesoamerica.
  • Peru: Pyramids of Cahuachi. A ceremonial site comprised of six pyramids, the highest being about 70 ft, overlooking a walled court of 4050 sq yards. (Morrison, 1988). Hadingham (1987) mentions that the “great temple” was a stepped pyramid. He quotes Helaine Silverman’s estimate that the period of most activity at Cahuachi was short lived, about 200 years, and the site was mysteriously abandoned around 200 ad, along with other several other important sites.
  • Peru: The pyramids of Tucume. “Covering over 540 acres and including 26 major pyramids as well as myriad smaller structures…first built around 1100 ad by people of the Lambayeque culture…” The largest of the adobe brick pyramids, Huaca Larga, is 2300 ft long, 910 ft wide and 65 ft high. (Heyerdahl, 1995). Robert Schoch (1999) writes, “The largest of the pyramids, called Tucume…was only a little over 200 feet high, but it contained one-third more volume that the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza.”
  • Peru: Huaca del Sol, Moche Valley. This is a 120 ft high pyramid on the Peruvian north coast. The 1.5 million mud brick pyramid is the largest man-made mound in SA. Facing Huaca del Sol across the main plaza was a smaller mound, Huaca del Luna. The site lies at the foot of Cerro Blanco, an obvious landmark from space for this ceremonial/feeding center (Hadingham, 1987)
  • Bolivia: The Akapana platform-pyramid at Tiahuanaco. The Bolivian archaeologists date the site to 1580 bc. The Akapana measures 688 ft on a side and is 49 ft high. “The earthen interior was shaped like a stepped pyramid and faced with fitted stones.” (Demetrio, 1983)
  • Java: Cani Sukuh pyramid, resembling the Mexico pyramid style (Childress, 1996). Who carried this style across the Pacific?
  • Ryukyu Islands: The Yonaguni underwater pyramid. This unique step-pyramid-platform, 240 ft long and 90 ft high, resting 75 ft underwater, has been dated to 8000 bc! (Dopatka, 2000)
  • China: The White Pyramid, near Xi’an. Hartwig Hausdorf (1998) says there are 90-100 pyramids in China, near Xi’an, the tallest being about 200 ft. Xi’an incidentally is the site of the amazing ‘Terracotta Army’ of Qin Shi Huang.
  • Polynesia: “modest pyramids” at Tongatabu; a temple-pyramid on Tahiti; the Langi stepped pyramid-platform at Tauhala (a large stone, 24 x 7 ft and weighing 30-40 tons, is in the wall).
  • Ancient pyramids are also found on Samoa and Java. (Childress, 1996)
  • Greece: Pyramid of Hellinikon, near Argos. The author writes, “…built in the style reminiscent of cyclopean walls…” Its base is 15 x 13 meters, and the tallest wall still standing it only 14 ft. From the photos it probably would have stood about 10 meters high when completed. Thermoluminescent analysis of the pyramid in 1997 yielded a construction date of 2720 bc, older than the archeologists state for the Cheops pyramid! (Tsoukalow, 2000)
  • Canary Islands: The pyramids of Guimar. Thor Heyerdahl writes, “…They were painstakingly built step-pyramids, constructed according to similar principles as those of Mexico, Peru, and ancient Mesopotamia.”
  • United States: Monk’s pyramid-mound at Cahokia, Illinois, a mud brick platform-pyramid. A large stone wall or room has recently been discovered inside the mound, but has not been excavated as of Oct 2000.
  • Yonaguni: Situated between the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea, about 300 miles from Okinawa, is the island of Yonaguni-Jima. Off it’s coast is a huge apparently manmade (god-made?) monument about 100 ft below the surface. Its a platform pyramid 600 ft wide, 90 ft high constructed of precisely hewn megalithic stones. The pyramid, apparently a part of a ceremonial center, has been dated to 8000 bc, 5000 years before the oldest pyramid in Egypt!

The best clue we have that the gods orchestrated the pyramid building is the tale of Gudea who built the temple-ziggurat at Lagash (apparently the god Kothar-Hasis was the only one authorized to design the temples. He was likely the same “Greek divine craftsman Hepahaestus” who built the temple-abode of Zeus, and the Egyptian god Thoth). For Ninurta’s temple at Lagash Gudea was given elaborate and continuous instructions by the gods. He built a seven-tier ziggurat, named Eninnu, referring to a ingenious tablet which gave a plan view and 7 scales – one for each tier (Zecharia Sitchin describes this story in detail in his 1976 and 1993 books. See also figs 748, 749 of Pritchard, 1969).

Zecharia Sitchin makes an interesting connection with his statement that the three great pyramids of Giza are at 52 degree, but the later pyramids collapsed at this angle and were built at 43.5 degrees, and he maintains that the pyramids at Teotihuacan are also at 43.5 degrees. Furthermore “although the 2nd pyramid at Giza is shorter than the Great Pyramid, their peaks are at the same height above sea level because the 2nd one is built on higher ground; the same holds true at Teotihuacan where the smaller Pyramid of the Moon is built on ground some thirty feet higher than the Sun Pyramid, giving their peaks equal height above sea level.” We should note here also that both the Great Pyramid at Giza and the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan have a descending shaft burrowed into the bedrock on which the pyramids were built.

One of the problems in choosing a landing site for a vertical-lift aircraft is the dust and dirt generated by the exhaust. Before pyramids were built this problem was apparently minimized by landing on large rock outcrops.
The problem is better solved however by landing on step pyramids, or step platforms, since the tiers at each level would effectively deflect the exhaust.

The ziggurats at Urand Babylon, the Zoser pyramid in Egypt (Fig 4-4), the Canary Island pyramids, and most of the Mexican pyramids and South American pyramids, employed this design.

Interestingly some of the Egyptian pyramids have multiple chambers which seem to have been built over periods of time, e.g. Sneferu’s pyramid has an underground chamber, a 2nd chamber near the surface, and a 3rd chamber up in the pyramid, as if the site was in use before, possibly long before, the pyramid was erected, probably as a landing and feeding site. The chambers of the Great Pyramid also follow this pattern; the 1st one being deep underground, then the 2nd (‘Queens’) chamber built low in the center of the pyramid, and the 3rd (‘Kings’) chamber higher up. This pattern suggests that one goal was to provide continuous and increasing degrees of protection from above.

The pyramids of Mycerinus, Unas, Teti and most others also had underground chambers. In fact the pyramids of Mycerinus and some others did not even have chambers in the pyramids themselves – all chambers were underground! Obviously this design would make excellent bomb shelters, and I suspect that the large pyramids, and any hapless occupants, if they had been located at “ground zero” at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, would have survived. The pyramidal shape would have effectively deflected most of the blast wave and fireball, and the neutron and gamma-ray pulses would have been attenuated to negligible levels by the stone mass.

Zecharia Sitchin (1985) offers a rather fantastic function for the pyramids of Giza: that they were built by the Nefilim, not by mankind, as part of a guidance grid for “the Tilmun spaceport”. He develops a theory that ties the pyramids and the “sacred cities” into a guidance and communication grid for two approach corridors, one west-to-east over Mesopotamia and one west-to-east over the Sinai. “Built by the gods (Anunnaki), they were landmarks and beacons for the spaceport in Sinai, and existed long before kingship began in Egypt.
” The great pyramid was “…the mountain by which Utu ascends…”.

Regarding the Giza pyramids some scholars argue that the stones were pulled up long ramps on sleds, referencing the familiar painting from the tomb of Djehutihotepe of 204 workers moving his 60 ton statute on a sled (Fig 4-5). But this only proves that this statue was moved on a sled. I am not aware of a single image or inscription which depict the methods used to construct the great pyramids. We simply do not know how it was done.

Incidentally Mark and Richard Wells (2000) have discovered an amazing similarity in the alignment and size of the three stars in Orion’s belt and the alignment and size of the major pyramids at Giza, Egypt; Xi’an, China; Teotihuacan, Mexico. Don’t miss their essay.

So we have pyramids of heights ranging from 30 ft to over 400 ft, lengths from 100 ft to 2300 ft; some with inner chambers and some solid throughout; stepped and smooth walled; square, round and elliptical bases; stone, mud and adobe brick construction; highly decorated or plain; some topped with small buildings.

From these various styles, sizes, and composition I think we can conclude that the pyramids had several functions: burial sites, landmarks, landing sites, feeding stations, bomb shelters, and ceremonial sites; and there is evidence that many of them served several functions simultaneously. But one thing seems certain – the pyramids, platforms and mounds around the world were places where the gods and mankind came together.