You are here

Biblical Archaeology Review 46:2, Spring 2020

Strata: A Wonder to Behold

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: Craftmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate, presented at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) in New York City.

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 craftmanship 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.

  • THROUGH MAY 24, 2020
  • Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
  • New York, NY, USA