Day 11 Kish & Babylon
At 8am a machine gun truck and 5 armed officers arrived to take us to Kish. Founded by Sargon in 2,500 BC it was the seat of the Kish kings until they were overthrown by the Babylonians. The ziggurat was excellent but I didn’t climb to the top because it was too steep and crumbly for me, the wuss. Instead, I had great fun looking for cuneiform inscriptions and pottery amongst the 10s of thousands of sherds littering the site. It’s very hot and dusty and we were watched closely by our escorts to ensure that anything we pick up was carefully replaced. They rightly won’t allow anything to be taken off their sites, even a pebble.
Babylon was reconstructed under Saddam and it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. Even though only 20% of the old site has been excavated, it’s massive. An Iraqi archaeologist showed us round but the museum is sadly closed because it’s never recovered from the 2003 looting. Anything saved was moved to Baghdad for safekeeping.
The main gate is a 1/3 size reconstruction and a sad reflection of the original. The painted mythological animals are unglazed.
The Processional Way beside the palace is impressive. The original paving has survived well.
Saddam reconstructed Nebuchadnezzar ‘s extensive palace.
The dais is allegedly where Alexander the Great died and was laid out in state, his army taking 3 days to march past his body in tribute.
The original Lion of Babylon has been moved to a new location and is well presented.
But the true star of the site is the remains of the original Ishtar Gate. The basement stretches at least 60 metres (the upper walls were taken by the Germans archaeologists and are now in the Pergamon Museum), lined with unglazed bulls, dragons and lions. Beautiful and impressive.
In a 6×3 foot drainage pit dug to relieve some of the flooding another 2 levels of glazed animals were clearly visible. The archaeologists reckon that there could be another 3 metres of wall yet to be excavated, so the walls are deeper than anyone first thought.
The 50 degree heat became unbearable and we all became so exhausted we were unable to make it to the restored theatre. Instead we sought refuge in Saddam’s abandoned, ransacked palace overlooking Babylon.