The chief building material was adobe, the surface of which in elegant edifices was lined and faced with .burned bricks, enameled tiles, or slabs of stone, either plain or sculptured in relief. In high walls of adobe, at intervals of ten or fifteen courses, there was a layer of reeds or mats in bitumen, which prevented the spread of moisture and protected surfaces exposed to the rain. Stone was scarce and rarely used save in temples and palaces. These were erected on artificial terraces, or mounds, which sometimes reached an elevation of five, ten, or even more yards above the natural surface. Adobe being a material which absorbs water and has no strength when wet through, great care was taken to protect the lower parts of the walls from moisture. Foundations were made with burned brick, and the mounds were supplied with channels and underground drains to carry off water.
The principle of the arch was known in a remote antiquity, though it was rarely used, as it is not suitable for application in adobe walls, unless over narrow openings. It was employed however in the masonry supporting the Hanging Garden, in the tunnel under the Euphrates, and in some sewers or drains. The Babylonians made excellent lime mortar for use with stone and burned brick; and they applied bitumen extensively in damp ground.
The Ziggurat of Marduk was the main site of worship of the Mesopotamian god Marduk (also known as Bel to the Babylonians) in the city of Babylon. The temple has been linked to the 'Tower of Babel' referred to in the Bible, and was one of the largest ziggurats in the whole of the Mesopotamian region. Also known as the temple or observatory of Baal. By one account, it was two hundred and seventy-two feet square on the ground, and consisted of seven stories, the six upper stories being each forty-two feet less each way than the one below it. The three lowest stories were, by one estimate, each twenty-six feet high, and the four above each fifteen feet, for a total of about 135 feet.
Each story was dedicated to one of the seven sacred planets, and each was painted externally with a distinctive color, beginning at the ground with black, and ascending through orange, red, purple, yellow, blue, and white to the top. The astronomical observatory at the summit was one hundred and fifty-two feet above the base. Much of the building was a solid mass of adobe masonry, with facings of brick, but there were internal halls and arches, as well as staircases.
The wall of Babylon was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world; part of which was "the Hanging Garden," as it was called, though a better name would have been "the Elevated Garden." It was a garden four hundred and fifty feet square, seventy-five feet above the surface of the ground, sustained on columns and arches. A deep, rich soil, supplied with an abundance of water, was covered with luxuriant vegetation, including some large trees.
The erection of the wall of Babylon was a greater enterprise than an Egyptian pyramid; and it was something that could not be finished in a generation, and to which the common people would not willingly devote a whole life-time. There are no descriptions of a Babylonian palace, but immense mounds still remaining on the site of Babylon are the remains of vast buildings. One of these mounds is half a mile square and fifty feet high, and another is about a third of a mile square.
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