A Wonder to Behold

The Ishtar Gate of Babylon Exhibit

Through May 24, 2020
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
New York, NY, USA

The Ishtar Gate (named after the powerful Mesopotamian goddess of love and war) offered entry into ancient Babylon from the north. Together with the connecting Processional Way, it was built under King Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–565 B.C.E.) to become one of the most impressive monuments of the Neo Babylonian capital. This architectural and artistic marvel is now featured in the exhibit A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate, presented at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) in New York City.

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The Ishtar Gate was built of clay bricks to stand 48 feet tall and 86 feet wide. Its walls were decorated with glazed, molded bricks put together to form raised reliefs of dragons, lions, and bulls set on a brilliant blue background. Such powerful imagery, associated with the king, projected divine power and advertised the protecting role of the king. After they were excavated, between 1899 and 1917, the glazed bricks were shipped to Berlin, Germany, where they were cleaned, restored, and reassembled. The reconstructed Ishtar Gate can be viewed at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.

Featuring more than 150 artifacts, the ISAW exhibit focuses on the craftsmanship and ancient beliefs that created the Ishtar Gate. It not only explores the molding, glazing, and baking technologies involved in producing individual bricks but also opens the spiritual world that produced this iconic wonder of ancient Babylon.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

How Bad Was the Babylonian Exile? Was there really weeping from the Judahite exiles by the rivers of Babylon? New evidence suggests that life was actually pretty good for some Judahite deportees and their successors.

Archaeologists Identify the World’s Earliest “Matches” in Ancient Israel The ability to cultivate fire stands out as a distinct step in the development of humanity. The ancient Greeks believed that the trickster titan Prometheus stole flames for humanity to grant our species independence. What is the actual history of human interaction with fire? How did ancient people light fires?

Iron Age Gate and Fortifications Uncovered at Philistine Gath Remains of the monumental city gate and fortifications of Iron Age Gath—home of the Biblical giant Goliath—were uncovered in excavations at Tell es-Safi in central Israel.

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