Domestic and also public design in Mesopotamian societies differed in relative simplicity and also complexity. Together time passed, public architecture grew to huge heights.

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Learning Objective

Differentiate how Mesopotamian societies approached domestic and public architecture

Key clues Animals and also human-animal hybrids function in the faiths of Mesopotamian cultures and were frequently used together architectural decoration.

The Mesopotamians concerned "the handmade of building" as a divine gift taught to men by the gods, and also architecture prospered in the region. A paucity of rock in the an ar made sunlight baked bricks and also clay the building material the choice. Babylonian design featured pilasters and columns, as well as frescoes and enameled tiles. Assyrian architects were strongly affected by the Babylonian style, however used rock as well together brick in their palaces, which to be lined v sculptured and colored slabs of stone instead of being painted. Currently ruins allude to load-bearing design as the dominant type of building. However, the innovation of the round arch in the general area of Mesopotamia affected the building and construction of structures favor the Ishtar door in the 6th century BCE. 

Domestic Architecture

Mesopotamian households were responsible for the building and construction of their very own houses. While dirt bricks and wooden doors consisted of the dominant building materials, reeds were additionally used in construction. Because houses were load-bearing, entrance were regularly the only openings. Sumerian society observed a rigid division between the public sphere and also the exclusive sphere, a share that caused a absence of direct view native the street into the home. The sizes of individual homes varied, but the general design consisted of smaller rooms organized around a large central room. To administer a natural cooling effect, courtyards came to be a common feature in the Ubaid period and persist into the domestic style of contemporary Iraq.


One that the many remarkable success of Mesopotamian architecture was the advancement of the ziggurat, a massive structure acquisition the type of a terraced action pyramid the successively receding story or levels, with a shrine or temple at the summit. Favor pyramids, ziggurats were built by stacking and also piling. Ziggurats were not places of praise for the basic public. Rather, only priests or various other authorized spiritual officials were permitted inside to have tendency to cult statues and make offerings. The an initial surviving ziggurats day to the Sumerian society in the fourth millennium BCE, however they ongoing to it is in a popular architectural type in the late third and early second millennium BCE as well .


Chogha Zanbil ziggurat

The Chogha Zanbil ziggurat was developed in 1250 BC through Untash-Napirisha, the king the Elam, to honor the Elamite god Inshushinak.

The image below is one artist"s reconstruction of just how ziggurats could have looked in their heyday. Human figures show up to illustrate the massive scale of this structures. This outstanding height and also width would certainly not have actually been possible without the use of ramps and also pulleys.


Like many Mesopotamian architecture, ziggurats were composedof sun-baked bricks, which were less resilient than their oven-bakedcounterparts. Thus, buildings had come be rebuilded on a regular basis, oftenon the foundations of newly deteriorated structures, which led to cities to end up being increasinglyelevated. Sun-baked bricks stayed the dominant building material v theBabylonian and also early Assyrian empires.

Political Architecture

The exteriors of windy structures prefer temples and palaces featured decorative aspects such as bright paint, gold, leaf, and enameling. Some elements, such as colored stones and terra cotta panels, offered a twofold function of decoration and structural support, i beg your pardon strengthened the buildings and also delayed your deterioration.

Between the thirteenth and also tenth century BCE, the Assyrians replaced sun-baked bricks with an ext durable rock and masonry. Colored stone and bas reliefs replaced repaint as decoration. Art produced under the reigns the Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE), Sargon II (722-705 BCE), and also Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE) inform us that reliefs advanced from an easy and vivid to naturalistic and restrained over this time span.

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From the early on Dynastic period (2900-2350 BCE) come the Assyrian realm (25th century-612 BCE), palaces thrived in size and complexity. However, even at an early stage palaces to be very huge and ornately decorated to identify themselves from domestic architecture. Since palaces housed the royal family and also everyone that attended to them, palaces were regularly arranged like tiny cities, with temples and also sanctuaries, and locations to inter the dead. Similar to private homes, courtyards were important features the palaces because that both utilitarian and also ceremonial purposes. 

By the time of the Assyrian empire, palaces were decorated through narrative reliefs on the walls and also outfitted with their own gates. The entrances of the palace of Dur-Sharrukin, lived in by Sargon II, featured significant alto reliefs of a superordinary guardian figure referred to as a lamassu (also known as a shedu), which had actually the head of a human, the body of a bull or lion, and also enormous wings. Lamassu number in the intuitive art and also literature from most of the old Mesopotamian world, going together far ago as ancient Sumer (settled c. 5500 BCE) and also standing guard in ~ the royal residence of Persepolis (550-330 BCE). 



This is just one example of exactly how a lamassu would show up in Mesopotamian art. Various other sculptures stay conical caps, confront the front, or have the bodies of lions. In literature, part lamassu assumed woman form. 

Although the Romans regularly receive credit for the ring arch, this structural system actually originated during ancient Mesopotamian times. Where typical load-bearing walls are not solid enough come have many windows or doorways, round arches absorb much more pressure, enabling for larger openings and also improved airflow. The repair of Dur-Sharrukin reflects that the round arch to be being provided as entryways by the eighth century BCE. 


Palace ofDur-Sharrukin 

Round arcs can be found in the main portal, and also in each window on the right and left. 

Perhaps the ideal known surviving example of a ring arch is in the Ishtar Gate, i beg your pardon was part of the Processional way in the city the Babylon. The gate, currently in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, was lavishly decorated v lapis lazuli additional by blue glazed brick. Elsewhere on the gate and also its connecting walls were painted floral motifs and also bas reliefs of animals that were spiritual to Ishtar, the goddess the fertility and also war. 


The photograph over shows the immense scale of the gate. The photograph below shows the detail of a relief that a bull indigenous the gate’s wall.