Robert Koldewey

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Robert Koldewey
Robert Koldewey 1.jpg
Robert Koldewey
Born 10 September 1855
Blankenburg am Harz
Died 4 February 1925 (1925-02-05) (aged 69)
Nationality German
Fields archaeologist,
Known for Babylon

Robert Johann Koldewey (10 September 1855 – 4 February 1925) was a German archaeologist, famous for his in-depth excavation of the ancient city of Babylon in modern-day Iraq (the site had been identified as that of the legendary city a century earlier by Claudius James Rich,[1] but Koldewey conducted nearly twenty years of excavations there with spectacular results). He was born in Blankenburg am Harz in Germany, the duchy of Brunswick, and died in Berlin at the age of 70. His digs at Babylon revealed the foundations of the ziggurat Marduk, and the Ishtar Gate; he also developed several modern archaeological techniques including a method to identify and excavate mud brick architecture. This technique was particularly useful in his excavation of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (1899–1917) which was built (ca. 580 BC) using mainly unfired mudbricks.

Koldewey was a self-trained archaeological historian of the classical area. Although he studied architecture and art history in Berlin and Vienna, he left both those universities without an advanced degree. In 1882 he was signed on as a participant to the excavation of ancient Assus in Turkey, where Koldewey learned several excavation methods and how best to draw ancient remains. A practicing archaeologist for most of his life, he participated in and led many excavations in, for example, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. After he died, the Koldewey Society was established to record and mark his architectural service.

Early life[edit]

After attending a gymnasium in Braunschweig, Koldewey moved with his family to Altona in 1869 where he attended the Christianeum, achieving his abitur in 1875.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon[edit]

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were a previously unconfirmed legend about a beautiful man-made mountain full of green plants and trees that reportedly were built by King Nebuchadnezzar (ruled 605 BC – 563 BC) for his homesick wife, Amyitis, who was daughter of the king of the Medes.

Robert Koldewey

Koldewey unearthed many of its features including the outer walls, inner walls, foundation of Etemenanki, the original of the "Tower of Babel", Nebuchadnezzar's palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city. While excavating the Southern Citadel, Robert Koldewey discovered a basement with fourteen large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Ancient texts showed that only two locations in the city had used stone, the north wall of the Northern Citadel, and the Hanging Gardens. The north wall of the Northern Citadel had already been found. This made it seem likely that Koldewey had found the cellar of the gardens.

He continued exploring the area and discovered many of the features reported by the ancient Greek historian Diodorus. While Koldewey was convinced that he had found the gardens, some modern archaeologists have called his discovery into question. While the location of the site that Koldewey excavated was well known and recognised as where Babylon had been situated, they argue that the dig site was too far from the Euphrates River to have been irrigated with the amount of water required for a green garden, and the ancient Greek historian Strabo stated that the Hanging Gardens were located right next to the river. The complex of arched rooms that Koldewey discovered was most likely a storeroom, as cuneiform tablets with lists of supplies and rations were later found in the ruins.

On the other hand, the river might not have been the source of the water. The use of a chain-pump, postulated by Robert Koldewey who discovered the "Hanging Gardens of Semiramis" (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) while he was excavating Babylon, amazed the world with such advanced technology. After Sennacherib (The Assyrian King) had totally destroyed both the city and the Tower of Babel in 689 B.C., the city of Babylon was rebuilt beginning in 600 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar II (King of the New Babylonian Empire ). As cited above, it is said that the triple-shaft draw-well, unique stone Arches and lush Gardens were all crafted to honor his wife. The machinery, which was designed to water the plants, probably did not fall into disuse until sometime after 539 B.C. when the city was taken by Cyrus II, "The Great" (Persian King *601 - †530 B.C.), although he was in awe of the Tower of Babel and spared it.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ceram, C.W., Gods, Graves and Scholars
  2. ^ Gods, Graves, And Scholars, by C. W. Ceram , New York, 1951


  • Clayton, Peter A. and Martin J. Price, Ed. "The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World." Routledge: New York, 1988. p 54-55.

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