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 Location: Tell Abu Shahrain, Iraq.  Grid Reference: 45� 58' 40" E, 30� 47' 51" N.


      Eridu: (Sumerian City State).

Said to be the first and oldest  Sumerian city and  capital of the Early Dynastic Period. According to Sumerian tradition,  the city that was founded by and belonged to the god Enki, the god of wisdom.

Eridu was considered an Earth Navel.


(Click here for Map of site)




   Eridu: ('Mighty Place', 'Eridug')

The site of Eridu was discovered by J. E. Taylor in 1854, in a ruin then called by the natives AbuShahrein, a few miles south-south-west of Moghair, ancient Ur, nearly in the centre of the dry bed of an inland sea. Eridu was once a thriving Sumerian sea-port, and was inhabited for over 2,000 years.

The ruins, in which Taylor conducted brief excavations, consist of a platform of fine sand enclosed by a sandstone wall, 20 ft. high, the corners orientated toward the cardinal points, on the N.W. part of which was a pyramidal tower of two stages, constructed of sun-dried brick, cased with a wall of kiln-burned brick, the whole still standing to a height of about 70 ft. above the platform. The summit of the first stage was reached by a staircase on the S.E. side, 15 ft. wide and 70 ft. long, constructed of polished marble slabs, fastened with copper bolts, flanked at the foot by two curious columns. An inclined road led up to the second stage on the N.W. side. Pieces of polished alabaster and marble, with small pieces of pure gold and gold-headed copper nails, found on and about the top of the second stage, indicated that a small but richly adorned sacred chamber, apparently plated within or without in gold, formerly crowned the top of this structure. Around the whole tower was a pavement of inscribed baked bricks, resting on a layer of clay 2 ft. thick. On the S.E. part of the terrace were the remains of several edifices, containing suites of rooms. Inscriptions on the bricks identified the site as that of Eridu.

Eridu is best known for its temples, called ziggurats. The earliest temple, dated to the Ubaid period about 5570 BC, consisted of a small room with a possible cult niche and an offering table. After a break, there are ever-larger temples built and rebuilt on this site throughout its history. Each of these temples was built with classical early Mesopotamian format of tripartite plan, with a buttressed facade and a long central room with an altar. The Ziggurat of Enki was built for the Third Dynasty of Ur, 3,000 years after the city's founding.


"[nam]-lugal an-ta �d-d�-a-ba

[eri]duki nam-lugal-la"

"When kingship from heaven was lowered,

the kingship was in Eridu."

(Sumerian king-list).


Chronology: construction phases -

The lowest building levels at Eridu (XVIII to XV), revealed small houses and shrines built of mud-brick to rectangular plans. This phase dates back to 5,000 BC. (1)

The next phase (Hajji Muhammed), began about 4,750 BC and occupies five building levels. This phase was well represented across southern Mesopotamia. It develops into the third phase. (1)

The third phase of development was named after the site Al 'Ubaid'. The Ubaid people spread across the whole of Mesopotamia. They used gold and copper and casted axes (1)

The Ubaid were succeeded by the Uruk phase which lasted from around 3,800 - 3,200 BC. The first evidence of writing was discovered at this level. (1)


Eridu Ziggurat: The Tower of Babel?

The tower of Babel was, according to the Bible (Genesis), built in Babylon.

According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, participated in the building. The people decided their city should have a tower so immense that it would have "its top in the heavens". (3)

However, the Tower of Babel was not built for the worship and praise of God, but was instead dedicated to the glory of man, to "make a name" for the builders: "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis 11:4). God, seeing what the people were doing, came down and confused their languages and scattered the people throughout the earth.

It has been suggested that Eridu, to the south of Ur, was the original Babel and site of the Tower of Babel, rather than the later city of Babylon, for a variety of reasons. (9)

  • The ziggurat ruins of Eridu are far larger and older than any others, and seem to best match the Biblical description of the unfinished Tower of Babel.

  • One name of Eridu in cuneiform logograms was pronounced "NUN.KI" ("the Mighty Place") in Sumerian, but much later the same "NUN.KI" was understood to mean the city of Babylon.

  • The much later Greek version of the King-list by Berosus (c. 200 BC) reads "Babylon" in place of "Eridu" in the earlier versions, as the name of the oldest city where "the kingship was lowered from Heaven".

  • Rohl et al. further equate Biblical Nimrod, said to have built Erech (Uruk) and Babel, with the name Enmerkar (-KAR meaning "hunter") of the king-list and other legends, who is said to have built temples both in his capital of Uruk and in Eridu.

Other cities in the ancient Near East were also named as "Babylon" at some point in history, including Nineveh. (10)


Eridu in Mythology:

In Sumerian mythology, it was said to be one of the five cities built before the Deluge occurred. Eridu appears to be the earliest settlement in the region, founded ca. 5400 BC, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River. Because of accumulation of silt at the shoreline over the millennia, the remains of Eridu are now some distance from the gulf at Abu Shahrain in Iraq.

In early Eridu, Enki's temple was known as E-abzu, or E-engura ("House of the subterranean waters" due to Enki's association with water), and was located at the edge of a freshwater marsh, an abzu. (2)


Gallery of Images: Eridu Ziggurat.



(More about Sumeria)




1). Glyn Daniel. The First Civilisations. 1968. Pelican books.
2). Green, Margaret Whitney (1975). Eridu in Sumerian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago. 
9). David Rohl. Legends: The Genesis of Civilization (1998) and The Lost Testament (2002)
10). Stephanie Dalley, Babylon as a Name for Other Cities Including Nineveh, in: Proceedings of the 51st Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Oriental Institute SAOC 62, pp. 25-33, 2005


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