Inanna – Female Head from Uruk, c. 3500 – 3000 B.C., Iraq Museum, Baghdad.

Inanna in the Middle East was an Earth and later a (horned) moon goddess; Canaanite derivative of Sumerian Innin, or Akkadian Ishtar of Uruk. Ereshkigal (wife of Nergal) was Inanna’s (Ishtar’s) elder sister.

Inanna descended from the heavens into the hell region of her sister-opposite, the Queen of Death, Ereshkigal. And she sent Ninshubur her messenger with instructions to rescue her should she not return. The seven judges (Annunaki) hung her naked on a stake.

Ninshubar tried various gods (Enlil, Nanna, Enki who assisted him with two sexless creatures to sprinkle a magical food and water on her corpse 60 times).

She was preceded by Belili, wife of Baal (Heb. Tamar, taw-mawr’, from an unused root meaning to be erect, a palm tree). She ended up as Annis, the blue hag who sucked the blood of children. Inanna in Egypt became the goddess of the Dog Star, Sirius which announced the flood season of the Nile.”

Practically all Sumerian sculpture served as adornment or ritual equipment for the temples. No clearly identifiable cult statues of gods or goddesses have yet been found. Many of the extant figures in stone are votive statues, as indicated by the phrases used in the inscriptions that they often bear: “It offers prayers,” or “Statue, say to my king (god). . . .”

Sumerian Statuettes, from the Temple of Abu,
Tel Asmar, c. 2700 – 2600 B.C., Iraq Museum,
Baghdad and Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

Male statues stand or sit with hands clasped in an attitude of prayer. They are often naked above the waist and wear a woolen skirt curiously woven in a pattern that suggests overlapping petals (commonly described by the Greek word kaunakes, meaning “thick cloak”). A toga-like garment sometimes covers one shoulder. Men generally wear long hair and a heavy beard, both often trimmed in corrugations and painted black. The eyes and eyebrows are emphasized with colored inlay. The female coiffure varies considerably but predominantly consists of a heavy coil arranged vertically from ear to ear and a chignon behind. A headdress of folded linen sometimes conceals the hair. Ritual nakedness is confined to priests.

It has been thought that the rarity of stone in Mesopotamia contributed to the primary stylistic distinction between Sumerian and Egyptian sculpture. The Egyptians quarried their own stone in prismatic blocks, and one can see that, even in their freestanding statues, strength of design is attained by the retention of geometric unity. By contrast, in Sumer, stone must have been imported from remote sources, often in the form of miscellaneous boulders, the amorphous character of which seems to have been retained by the statues into which they were transformed.

Beyond this general characteristic of Sumerian sculpture, two successive styles have been distinguished in the middle and late subdivisions of the Early Dynastic period. One very notable group of figures, from Tall al-Asmar, Iraq (ancient Eshnunna), dating from the first of these phases, shows a geometric simplification of forms that, to modern taste, is ingenious and aesthetically acceptable. Statues characteristic of the second phase on the other hand, though technically more competently carved, show aspirations to naturalism that are sometimes overly ambitious. In this second style, some scholars see evidence of occasional attempts at portraiture.

Yet, in spite of minor variations, all these figures adhere to the single formula of presenting the conventional characteristics of Sumerian physiognomy. Their provenance is not confined to the Sumerian cities in the south. An important group of statues is derived from the ancient capital of Mari, on the middle Euphrates, where the population is known to have been racially different from the Sumerians. In the Mari statues there also appears to have been no deviation from the sculptural formula; they are distinguished only by technical peculiarities in the carving.

Deprived of stone, Sumerian sculptors exploited alternative materials. Fine examples of metal casting have been found, some of them suggesting knowledge of the cire perdue (lost-wax) process, and copper statues more than half life-size are known to have existed. In metalwork, however, the ingenuity of Sumerian artists is perhaps best judged from their contrivance of composite figures.

The earliest and one of the finest examples of such figures–and of Sumerian sculpture as a whole–comes from a Protoliterate level of excavation at Tall al-Warka’. It is the limestone face of a life-size statue (Iraqi Museum, Baghdad), the remainder of which must have been composed of other materials; the method of attachment is visible on the surviving face.

Devices of this sort were brought to perfection by craftsmen of the Early Dynastic period, the finest examples of whose work are to be seen among the treasures from the royal tombs at Ur: a bull’s head decorating a harp, composed of wood or bitumen covered with gold and wearing a lapis lazuli beard (British Museum);

Sumerian Bull’s Head, Lyre from Tomb of Paubi, c. 2600 B.C.

A rampant he-goat in gold and lapis, supported by a golden tree (University Museum, Philadelphia) –

Ram (Billy Goat) and Tree, Offering Stand from Ur (to male fertility god, Tammuz), 2600 B.C.,

The composite headdresses of court ladies (British Museum, Iraqi Museum, and University Museum); or, more simply, the miniature figure of a wild ass, cast in electrum (a natural yellow alloy of gold and silver) and mounted on a bronze rein ring (British Museum).

The inlay and enrichment of wooden objects reaches its peak in this period, as may be seen in the so-called standard or double-sided panel from Ur (British Museum), on which elaborate scenes of peace and war are depicted in a delicate inlay of shell and semiprecious stones. The refinement of craftsmanship in metal is also apparent in the famous wig-helmet of gold (Iraqi Museum), belonging to a Sumerian prince, and in weapons, implements, and utensils.

Relief carving in stone was a medium of expression popular with the Sumerians and first appears in a rather crude form in Protoliterate times. In the final phase of the Early Dynastic period, its style became conventional. The most common form of relief sculpture was that of stone plaques, 1 foot (30 centimeters) or more square, pierced in the center for attachment to the walls of a temple, with scenes depicted in several registers (horizontal rows).

The subjects usually seem to be commemorative of specific events, such as feasts or building activities, but representation is highly standardized, so that almost identical plaques have been found at sites as much as 500 miles (800 kilometers) apart. Fragments of more ambitious commemorative stele have also been recovered; the Stele of Vultures (Louvre Museum) from Telloh, Iraq (ancient Lagash), is one example. Although it commemorates a military victory, it has a religious content. The most important figure is that of a patron deity, emphasized by its size, rather than that of the king. The formal massing of figures suggests the beginnings of mastery in design, and a formula has been devised for multiplying identical figures, such as chariot horses.

In a somewhat different category are the cylinder seals so widely utilized at this time. Used for the same purposes as the more familiar stamp seal and likewise engraved in negative (intaglio), the cylinder-shaped seal was rolled over wet clay on which it left an impression in relief. Delicately carved with miniature designs on a variety of stones or shell, cylinder seals rank as one of the higher forms of Sumerian art.

Prominent among their subjects is the complicated imagery of Sumerian mythology and religious ritual. Still only partially understood, their skillful adaptation to linear designs can at least be easily appreciated. Some of the finest cylinder seals date from the Protoliterate period (see photograph). After a slight deterioration in the first Early Dynastic period, when brocade patterns or files of running animals were preferred (see photograph), mythical scenes returned. Conflicts are depicted between wild beasts and protecting demigods or hybrid figures, associated by some scholars with the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. The monotony of animated motifs is occasionally relieved by the introduction of an inscription.

Votive Statues, from the Temple of Abu, Tell Asmar,c.2500 BC, limestone, shell, and gypsum

Brief Look at the Code of Hammurabi

      In his position as King of Babylonia, Hammurabi managed to
organize the world's first code of laws and establish Babylon as the
dominant and successful Amorite city of its time. "Records written on
clay tablets show that Hammurabi was a very capable administrator and
a successful warrior. His rule spanned from 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C.
When he became king in 1792, he was still young, but had already
become entrusted with many official duties in his administration"
(Grolier). In the early years of his reign, Hammurabi mostly
participated in  traditional activities, such as repairing buildings,
digging canals, and fighting wars. Yet later in his rule, Hammurabi
organized a unique code of laws, the first of its kind, therefore
making himself one of the world's most influential leaders.

      Hammurabi was primarily influential to the world because of his
code of laws. This code consisted of 282 provisions, systematically
arranged under a variety of subjects. He sorted his laws into groups
such as family, labor, personal property, real estate, trade, and
business. This was the first time in history that any laws had been
categorized into various sections. This format of organization was
emulated by civilizations of the future. For example, Semitic cultures
succeeding Hammurabi's rule used some of the same laws that were
included in Hammurabi's code. Hammurabi's method of thought is evident
in present day societies which are influenced by his code. Modern
governments currently create specific laws, which are placed into
their appropriate family of similar laws. Hammurabi had his laws
recorded upon an eight foot high black stone monument. Hammurabi based
his code on principles like, the strong should not injure the weak,
and that punishment should fit the crime. As for punishment, "legal
actions were initiated under the code by written pleadings; testimony
was taken under oath. The code was severe in it's penalties,
prescribing "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.""(Grolier). This
code of laws was able to be maintained by invoking the authority of
the gods and the state. Although the punishments were different than
those of today, the authority of the state (government) is similar.
Currently, punishments are issued through the state's law enforcement
system, comparable to the way punishment was determined and enforced
in ancient Babylon. In the code, crimes punishable by death required a
trial in front of a bench of judges. Included in these crimes were:
bigamy, incest, kidnapping, adultery and theft. There were also laws
similar to today. For example, a husband who wished to divorce his
wife, was required to pay alimony and child support. By creating the
world's first set of organized laws, Hammurabi constituted a model set
of moral codes for other civilizations to duplicate.

      "The code of Hammurabi is believed to have greatly influenced
the development of Near Eastern civilizations for centuries after it
was written"(Britannica). Although Hammurabi failed to establish an
effective bureaucratic system himself, his ideas were successful in
establishing laws in Babylonia. Since Babylon was the world's first
metropolis, the large population needed to be bound by a strict set of
organized civil laws. The way Hammurabi constructed his laws is
influential to the world today, because laws can be more easily
understood by the people.


"Code of Hammurabi." Encyclopedia Britannica (1989), X, 682.
"Hammurabi." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1994).
"Hammurabi." Compton's Encyclopedia (1990), XI, 225.

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.