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Ruins of the ziggurat and temple of the god Nabu at Borsippa, Babel Governorate, Iraq. 6th century BC.jpg
Borsippa is located in Iraq
Shown within Iraq
Alternative nameBirs Nimrud
CoordinatesCoordinates: 32°23′31.19″N 44°20′30.08″E / 32.3919972°N 44.3416889°E / 32.3919972; 44.3416889
Site notes
Excavation dates1854, 1861, 1902, 1980-2003
ArchaeologistsHenry Creswicke Rawlinson, Hormuzd Rassam, Robert Koldewey, Helga Piesl-Trenkwalder, Wilfred Allinger-Csollich
Public accessYes

Borsippa (Sumerian: BAD.SI.(A).AB.BAKI; Akkadian: Barsip and Til-Barsip)[1] or Birs Nimrud (having been identified with Nimrod) is an archeological site in Babil Governorate, Iraq. The ziggurat is today one of the most vividly identifiable surviving ones, identified in the later Arabic culture with the Tower of Babel. However, modern scholarship concludes that the Babylonian builders of the Ziggurat in reality erected it as a religious edifice in honour of the local god Nabu, called the "son" of Babylon's Marduk, as would be appropriate for Babylon's lesser sister-city.

Borsippa was an important ancient city of Sumer, built on both sides of a lake about 17.7 km (11.0 mi) southwest of Babylon on the east bank of the Euphrates.


Borsippa is mentioned, usually in connection with Babylon, in texts from the Third Dynasty of Ur through the Seleucid Empire and even in early Islamic texts. It is also mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 36a, Avodah Zarah 11b) and other rabbinic literature. Borsippa was dependent upon Babylon and was never the seat of a regional power. From the ninth century BC, Borsippa was on the borderland south of which lay the tribal "houses" of Chaldea.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, mentions the city in relation to the war between Cyrus the Great and Nabonnedus.[2] The temple to Nabu at Borsippa was destroyed in 484 BC during the suppression of a revolt against the Achamenid emperor, Xerxes I.[3]

In the 1st millennium BC, the city had a large scribal class.[4]


In 1854, work at Borsippa was conducted under the direction of Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, with most of the actual digging done by his subordinates.[5] Rawlinson personally uncovered the foundation prisms from Nebuchadnezzar II's restoration on the Nabu temple. Between 1879 and 1881 the site was excavated by Hormuzd Rassam for the British Museum.[6][7] He concentrated primarily on E-zida, the temple of Nabu. In 1902, Robert Koldewey worked at Borsippa during his main effort at Babylon also mainly on the Nabu temple. E-DIM-AN-NA, temple of the bond of heaven, built by Nebuchadrezzar for the god Sin in the court of E-zida was also excavated.[8]

For 20 seasons between 1980 and 2003 the Austrian team from the Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck led by Helga Piesl-Trenkwalder and Wilfred Allinger-Csollich excavated for sixteen seasons at the site.[9] Early work concentrated on the large ziggurat E-ur-imin-an-ki and later on the Nabu temple. Examinination determined that the ziggurat had a 60 by 60 meter core of unbaked brinks with a mantle of baked bricks (or Kassite and Neo-Babylonian origin) bringing the structure up to 78 by 78 meters. The mantle was covered by a layer of baked bricks bonded by bitumen. Reeds, ropes, and wooden beams were used to bond the layers together.[10] It was found that the ziggurat had been partially hollowed out in Parthian times.[11] Tablets of the Neo-Babylonian period were found. Excavations can currently not be carried out due to political events. The elaboration of the results of excavations within the project "Comparative studies of Borsippa - Babylon" are conducted.[12][13][14][15][16]

Many legal administrative and astronomical texts on cuneiform tablets have originated at Borsippa and have turned up on the black market. Archives began to be published in the 1980s. An inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II, the "Borsippa inscription," tells how he restored the temple of Nabu, "the temple of the seven spheres," with "bricks of noble lapis lazuli." that must have been covered with a rich blue glaze, surely a memorable sight. The Austrian archeologists have determined that Nebuchadnezzar's ziggurat encased the ruins of a smaller tower from the second millennium BC. When it was completed it reached a height of 70 meters, in seven terraces; even in ruin it still stands a striking 52 meters over the perfectly flat plain. Some tablets have been recovered, but archeologists still hope to uncover a temple archive of cuneiform tablets, of which there were some copies in ancient Assyrian libraries. An inscribed foundation stone has been recovered, which details Nebuchadnezzar's plan to have the Borsippa ziggurat built on the same design as that at Babylon, of which only the foundation survives. Nebuchadnezzar declared that Nabu's tower would reach the skies, another inscription states. The reconstruction under the patronage of Bel-Marduk is summarized on a cylinder in Akkadian of Antiochus I, an example of the region's remarkable cultural continuity.[17][18]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History: Prolegomena & Prehistory: Vol. 1, Part 1. Accessed 15 Dec 2010.
  2. ^ Josephus, Against Apion (Book 1, section 20)
  3. ^ M. A. Dandamayev, "Ezida Temple and the Cult of Nabu in Babilonia of the First Millennium", Vestnik drevnej istorii, no. 3, pp. 87-94, 2009
  4. ^ Zadok, Ran, "The Scribes of Borsippa in the First Millennium BC: A Preliminary Survey", The IOS Annual Volume 22:“Telling of Olden Kings”. Brill, pp. 67-92, 2022
  5. ^ Henry C. Rawlinson, "On the Birs Nimrud, or the Great Temple of Borsippa", The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 18, pp. 1-34, 1861
  6. ^ Hormuzd Rassam (1897). "Asshur and the Land of Nimrod: Being an Account of the Discoveries Made in the Ancient Ruins of Nineveh, Asshur, Sepharvaim, Calah, (etc)..." (PDF). Curts & Jennings.
  7. ^ J. E. Reade," Rassam's Excavations at Borsippa and Kutha, 1879-82", Iraq, vol. 48, pp. 105-116, 1986
  8. ^ Robert Koldewey. The excavations at Babylon, University of Michigan Library, 1914; Robert Koldewey, "Die Tempel von Babylon und Borsippa", WVDOG 15, Leipzig, 1911, ISSN 0342-118X
  9. ^ Kaniuth, Kai, "Borsippa—Preliminary Report on the 18th-20th Campaigns (2001-2003).", Sumer 52.1, pp. 9-16, 2004
  10. ^ "Recent Excavations in Iraq.", Iraq, vol. 61, pp. 195–202, 1999
  11. ^ "Excavations in Iraq 1985-86.", Iraq, vol. 49, pp. 231–51, 1987
  12. ^ W. Allinger-Csollich, "Birs Nimrud I. Die Baukörper der Ziqqurat von Borsippa, ein Vorbericht", Baghdader Mitteilungen (BaM). Gbr. Mann, Berlin, vol. 22, pp. 383-499, 1991, ISSN 0418-9698
  13. ^ W. Allinger-Csollich, "Birs Nimrud II. Tieftempel-Hochtempel". (Vergleichende Studien: Borsipa-Babylon). BaM 29, pp. 95-330, 1998
  14. ^ W. Allinger-Csollich, Birs Nimrud II: Tieftempel-Hochtempel: Vergleichende Studien Borsippa - Babylon, Baghdader Mitteilungen, vol. 29, pp. 95-330, 1998, ISSN 0418-9698
  15. ^ "Excavations in Iraq, 1979-80.", Iraq, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 167–98, 1981
  16. ^ "Excavations in Iraq, 1983-84.", Iraq, vol. 47, pp. 215–39, 1985
  17. ^ A. Kuhrt and S. Selwin-White, "Aspects of Seleucid Royal Ideology : The Cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa", Journal of Hellenic Studies 111 (1991:71-86)
  18. ^ Widmer, Marie, "Translating the Seleucid ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑ: notes on the titulature of Stratonice in the Borsippa Cylinder", Greece & Rome 66.2, pp. 264-279. 2019

Further reading[edit]

  • Still, Bastian, "Annotated List of Hanšû Land in Borsippa", The Social World of the Babylonian Priest. Brill, pp. 257-265, 2019
  • Still, Bastian, "Property Sales in the Borsippa Corpus", The Social World of the Babylonian Priest. Brill, pp. 1-4, 2019
  • Still, Bastian, "Quantitative Analysis of Priestly Marriages in Borsippa", The Social World of the Babylonian Priest. Brill, pp. 245-256, 2019
  • G. Frame, The "First Families" of Borsippa during the Early Neo-Babylonian Period, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 67–80, 1984
  • John P. Peters, The Tower of Babel at Borsippa, Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 41, pp. 157–159, 1921
  • Francis Joannes, Archives de Borsippa la famille Ea-Iluta-Bani : etude d'un lot d'archives familiales en Babylonie du VIIIe au Ve siecle av. J.-C, Droz, 1989
  • Caroline Waerzeggers, The Carians of Borsippa, Iraq, vol. 68, pp. 1–22, 2006
  • Caroline Waerzeggers, The Ezida temple of Borsippa Priesthood, cult, archives (Achaemenid History vol. 15), Leiden, 2010 ISBN 978-90-6258-415-4

External links[edit]