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ARC 110

History of Architecture I
Module 3
Architecture of the Ancient Near East
Module Outline
Lecture 6
Historical Background
Location and period
Social characteristics and beliefs
Architecture of the Civilization
Sumerian Architecture
Lecture 7
Assyrian architecture
Babylonian Architecture
Persian architecture
Lecture 8
Architectural Characteristics
Buildings and other architectural elements
Building materials, construction and technologies
Architectural Organizing principles
Learning Outcomes
We should expect to learn the following about
the civilization
Evolution of early human society and
civilization, including kingship and empires
Architectural responses to geography and
the need for religious symbols
Architecture of Power and Authority
Temple and Palace architecture
Architecture and construction in mud
Module 3 Lecture 6
Architecture of the Ancient Near East
Outline of Lecture
Lecture 6
Historical Background
Location and period
Social characteristics and beliefs
Architecture of the Civilization
Sumerian Architecture
Historical Background
Historical Background
Located in and around
the valley of Tigris and
Euphrates rivers in
modern Iraq
Area is also known as
Mesopotamia or land
between two rivers
The land had poorly
defined edges
The land stretches from
Mediterranean to eastern
borders of present Iran
Historical Background
To the south and west, it
fades into the Arabian desert
To the north and west, it fades
into the plains of Syria
The Tigris and Euphrates
rivers sit in the land as
dominant physical feature
The Rivers were
unpredictable, being subject
to alternating flood and
Historical Background
The area witnessed the earliest rise of human civilization
around 4500 BC
Transformation from prehistory, to villages and cities
occurred there
Civilization there lasted for 5000 years
Cultural development was not homogenous during the
Different cultures established city states and empires at
different periods
The cultures include Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian,
Babylonian, and Persian
Historical Background
It has not been possible to trace a neat order of
the history of the cultures
An acceptable order is presented
Sequence of Civilization
4500 to 2000 BC Sumerian culture, peaking in
3300 BC
2350 2200 BC Akkadian Period
2000- 1600 BC Babylonian Culture
1600 1717 BC Kessites and Hittites
1350 612 BC Assyrian Culture
612 539 BC Neo Babylonian culture
539 330 BC Persian culture
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization
What do we mean by civilization?
Civilization is usually associated with the cultural
practices of cities and urban living, the presence of
writing and written law
In Mesopotamia, earliest cities were established
and urban culture took hold
Between 4000 and 3000 BC, large number of
people began living in a small area creating first
Many people began to have jobs that is
unrelated to agriculture
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
Once established, cities grew and increased power and
As cities grew in power and importance, rivalries
developed between them for military and economic
The ANE was land without natural defenses
Warfare was common throughout its history
The Tigris and Euphrates also suffered from alternate
drought and floods
Combination of warfare and frequent drought and flood
made a continuous homogenous civilization impossible
The result is that several cultures flourished and died
out during the ANE period
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
Cities in the ANE initially developed with
authority residing in an assembly of male
Short term leaders were selected during wars
When war leaders were retained during peace
time, kingship evolved
It was initially elective and later hereditary
As some cities became more powerful, they
defeated weaker ones to create empires and
This led to collective rule of city states by a
sovereign king
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
With kingship also came monumental palaces
as place of residence and administration for
the king
Almost all ANE culture worshiped many gods
and goddesses
ANE people did not believe in immortality or
eternal life
They believed only gods were immortal
Rather, they believed in divine rewards for
moral conduct
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
The reward was enjoyed in this life
The rewards include increased worldly goods,
numerous offspring and long life
The most popular and earliest religious cults
related to fertility
Fertility goddesses influenced the growth of
Aspects of life such as war, weather, disease,
were explained by the actions of gods
The Sumerian had a religion based on the
elements- sky, earth, water, sun, moon, etc
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
This reflected the agrarian nature of their
As ANE people came together to live in cities,
they needed a means of communication and
record keeping
Around 3500, the Sumerians invented a system
of writing based on pictograph
This was later developed into a simpler writing
called the cuneiform
Development of written language enabled them
to produce historical records
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
Written records also led to the development
of written law as in the code of King
Cities in ancient Mesopotamia were enclosed
by wall fortifications
The fabric of the cities are a blend of
residential, commercial and industrial
Houses were one story high and mostly of
mud brick
Rooms were arranged around courtyards
Historical Background
Social Characteristics & Beliefs
Houses looked inward
Rooms were narrow with thick walls and flat,
vault or dome roofs
Timber and stone were scarce, clay was
abundant and mud brick was most common
building material
Buildings were usually raised on platforms to
protect them from the floods
Clay was also used for pottery
Mesopotamians invented astrology, wheeled
vehicle & made advances in science & math
Architecture of the Civilization
Architecture of the Civilization
Sequence of Treatment
Sumerian Architecture
Assyrian Architecture
Babylonian Architecture
Persian Architecture
Sumerian Architecture
The transition from prehistory
was made around 4500 BC
with the rise of the Sumerian
Sumerians established an
irrigation system that made the
capable of food production to
support urban living
They were also skilled in metal
The Sumerians invented the
cuneiform system of writing
Sumerian Architecture
The Sumerians invented the
cuneiform system of writing
The major cities of the
Sumerian civilization were
Kish, Uruk and Ur
The Sumerian were the first
civilization to make a
conscious attempt of
designing public buildings
Mud was their building
Mud was formed into brick,
sun dried and built into
massive walls
Sumerian Architecture
Mud was their main building material
Mud was formed into brick, sun dried and built
into massive walls
Walls were thick to compensate the weakness of
They were reinforce with buttresses
Spaces were narrow because of the walling
Sumerian Architecture
Spaces were narrow because of the walling
Faade of buildings were whitewashed and
painted to disguise the lack of attraction of the
Buttresses and recesses also relieve the
monotony of the plastered wall surfaces
Temples was their major building type
We will examine Sumerian house organization
and their temple forms
Sumerian Architecture
The clearest example of
the cities of the ancient
Near East is found in the
Sumerian city of Ur
Cities were enclosed in
walls with Ziggurat
temples and palace as
centers of the city
Fabric of the city is made
up of residences mixed
with commercial and
industrial buildings
Sumerian Architecture
The houses are densely
packed with narrow
streets between them.
Streets were fronted by
courtyard houses of one
story high
The houses streets were
usually punctuated by
narrow openings that
serve as entrance to
Sumerian Architecture
Architectural Monument- Temples
Temples were the principal architectural
monuments of Sumerian cities
Temples consist of chief and city temples
We will examine two examples of chief
temples- the white temple at Uruk and the
Great Ziggurat at Ur
And we will examine on city temple, the
Oval temple at Khafaje
Sumerian Architecture
White Temple Uruk
Uruk was a major Sumerian
city by 3300 BC
Uruk is also known as warka
in arabic
The name Iraq is derived
from Uruk
The city covered an area of 2
square kilometer
Had a population of 40,000
White temple was located at
Sumerian Architecture
White Temple Uruk
The white temple was built
around 3000 BC
The white temple is an
example of earliest
development of Sumerian
temples and Ziggurat
Sumerian Architecture
White Temple Uruk
The temple is place on a
great mound of earth called
Ziggurat, rising more than
12 meters above ground
The ziggurat and temple are
built with mud bricks
The temple is rectangular in
Temple walls were thick and
supported by buttresses
In the inner part of the
temple was a long
sanctuary, that contains an
alter and offering table
Sumerian Architecture
White Temple Uruk
Rooms oblong and in
shape and vaulted
surrounded the long side of
the sanctuary
The temple had imposing
doorways located at its
either end
Worshippers to the temple
however enter through a
side room
Sumerian Architecture
White Temple Uruk
Series of staircases and
stepped levels lead
worships to the entrance of
the temple
The temple was plastered
white externally, making it
visible for miles in the
Sumerian Architecture
Great Ziggurat Ur
Ur was a Sumerian city
located near the mouth of
the Euphrates river
The city was a thriving
place by 2600 BC
It was considered sacred to
Nnanna, the moon god
The white temple was built
around 2113 to 2048 BC by
the ruler Urnammu
It was built on the ruins of
previous temples and
incorporated their remains
Sumerian Architecture
Great Ziggurat Ur
It was constructed of mud
bricks reinforced with thin
layers of matting and cables
of twisted reeds
The Great Ziggurat was
located as part of a temple
The complex comprised of
the ziggurat and its court
and a secondary court
attached to it called the
court of Nannar
The king was the chief
priest of the temple and
lived close to it
Sumerian Architecture
Great Ziggurat Ur
The temple sits on a three
multi-tiered Ziggurat
Access to the temple is
through triple stairways that
converge at the summit of
the first platform
From this stage, one
passed through a portal
with dome roof to fourth
Sumerian Architecture
Great Ziggurat Ur
The fourth staircase gave
access to the second and
third stages of the ziggurat
and to the temple
The temple is usually
access only by the priest,
where gods are believed to
come down and give
Sumerian Architecture
Great Ziggurat Ur
The ziggurat is believed by
the Sumerians to unit the
heavens and the earth
The people believed that
climbing the staircase of the
ziggurat gives a holy
The chief temple was also
used as a last line of
defense during times of war
Most of what is known
about what exist on top of
the ziggurat is projection
Sumerian Architecture
Oval Temple- Khafaje
Oval temple is an example
of second type of Sumerian
It was constructed around
2600 BC
The temple is named oval
because of its massive oval
walls surrounding the temple
Located in the city,
emphasis in its organization
is on enclosing space within
Sumerian Architecture
Oval Temple Khafaje
Space is enclosed to create
island of peace from a busy
The temple is raised on a
simple platform enclosed
within the oval walls
It had subsidiary chambers
at the ground level
The outer wall was extended
to protect a priestly
residence with its own chapel
Sumerian Architecture
Oval Temple Khafaje
The inner court had an
offering table and showed
evidence of animal sacrifices
The inner court also had
basins for ablution as well as
workshops and storage
End of Module 3 Lecture 6
Module 3 Lecture 6
Architecture of the Ancient Near East
Outline of Lecture 7
Assyrian architecture
City of Khorsabad
Palace of Sargon at Khorsabad
Babylonian Architecture
City of Babylon
Architecture in the city of Babylon
Persian architecture
Palace at Parsepolis
Assyrian Architecture
Assyrian Architecture
Assyria is the name for a part
of ancient Mesopotamia
located on the upper Tigris
The principal cities of Assyria
were Nineveh, Dun,
Khorsabad, Nimrud and Assur
The Assyrians were great
warriors and hunters, and this
was reflected in their art
They produced violent
sculptures and relief carving in
stone that was used to
ornament their houses
Assyrian Architecture
During the Assyrian periods,
temples lost their importance to
Assyrian kings built walled cities,
in which palaces took precedent
over religious buildings
Palaces were raised on brick
platforms, and their principal
entrance ways were flanked by
guardian figures of human
headed bulls or lions of stone
Their halls and corridors were
lined with pictures and
inscriptions carved in relief on
stone slabs up to 9 feet high
Assyrian Architecture
The interiors were richly
decorated and luxurious.
The walls of cities were
usually strengthened by
many towers serving as
defensive positions
The city of Khorsabad
demonstrate the might and
authority of the Assyrian
It is also at this place that the
remains of Assyrian
architecture can be found
Assyrian Architecture
City of Khorsabad
Khorsabad was designed as
the royal capital of Assyria
The city was built on a flat land
with an area of about a square
mile and was enclosed by a
double wall with seven city
Only a part of the city including
palaces, temples and
administrative headquarters
was built
The palace was located on the
north west side of the city
Assyrian Architecture
Palace of Sargon
The palace is approached at
ground level through a
walled citadel
Within the citadel is found
the main palace, two minor
palaces and a temple
dedicated to Nabu
The main palace was set on
a platform located on the
northern side of the citadel
All the buildings within the
citadel were arranged
around courtyards
Assyrian Architecture
Palace of Sargon
The palace was arranged
around two major
courtyards about which
were grouped smaller
The palace consisted of
large and smaller rooms
with the throne room being
the largest
The building was decorated
with relief sculpture and
glazed brick
Babylonian Architecture
Babylonian Architecture
After the fall of Nineveh in
612 BC and the end of the
Assyrian civilization, focus
of Mesopotamian civilization
shifted to old Babylon
A new dynasty of kings,
including Nebuchadnezzar,
revived old Babylonian
culture to create a Neo-
Babylonian civilization
Old Sumerian cities were
Babylonian Architecture
The capital old Babylon was
enlarged and heavily
It was also adorned with
magnificent new buildings
The traditional style of
Mesopotamian building
reached its peak during the
Traditional building was
enhanced by a new form of
faade ornament consisting
of figures designed in
colored glazed brick work
Babylonian Architecture
City of Babylon
The city of Babylon is
shaped in the form of a
quadrangle sitting
across and pierced by
the Euphrates[64]
The city was
surrounded by a
fortification of double
These had defensive
towers that project well
above the walls
Babylonian Architecture
City of Babylon
The walls also had a
large moat in front, which
was also used for
The length of the wall and
moat is about five and a
quarter miles
The city had a palace,
palace, located on its
northern side on the outer
Babylonian Architecture
Ishtar Gate
From the palace originated a
procession street that cuts
through the city raised above
the ground to the tower of
The procession street enters
the city through the famous
Ishtar gate
The Ishtar gate is built across
the double walls of the city
The gate had a pair of
projecting towers on each
Babylonian Architecture
Ishtar Gate
All the facades of gates
and adjoining streets
were faced with blue
glazed bricks and
ornamented with figures
of heraldic animals- lions,
bulls, and dragons
These were modeled in
relief and glazed in other
None of the buildings of
old Babylon has survived
to the present age
Babylonian Architecture
Architecture in the city of Babylon
Nebuchadnezzars palace
covered a land area of 900 feet
by 600 feet
It had administrative offices,
barracks, the kings harem,
private apartment all arranged
around five courtyards
The palace is also praised for its
legendary hanging garden
This is recorded as one of the
seven wonders of the ancient
world, but exact knowledge of
the nature of this garden is not
Babylonian Architecture
Architecture in the city of Babylon
Temples and towers were
also prominent
architectural elements of
The legendary tower of
Babel located at the end of
procession street is
mentioned in the Christian
There is also no
information about the
design and construction of
the tower
Most of what is available
on the tower is hypothetical
Persian Architecture
Persian Architecture
The Persian empire started in about 560 BC when
Cyrus the great from the province of Fars swept over
the region with his powerful cavalry
By the end of the century, Cyrus and his successors,
Darius 1 and Xerxes had conquered the entire civilized
world from Indus to Danube River with the exception of
It was the wish of the Persians to construct great
They were to achieve greatness with their architectural
The architectural solutions were a synthesis of ideas
gathered from almost all parts of their empire and from
the Greeks an Egyptians
Persian Architecture
Their materials of construction was also from
different locations
Material included mud-brick from Babylon,
wooden roof beams from Lebanon, precious
material from India and Egypt, Stone columns
quarried and carved by Ionic Greeks
Despite sourcing materials and ideas from
different areas, their architecture was original
and distinctive in style
Persian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
Persian architecture achieved
its greatest monumentality at
It was constructed as a new
capital for the Persian Empire
The city was started 510 BC
and finished in 460 BC
It is set along the face of a
mountain leveled to create a
large platform 1800 feet by 900
It was surrounded by a
fortification wall
The site was more than half
covered by buildings
Persian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
The palace consisted of
three parts:
An approach of
monumental staircases,
gate ways and avenues
Two great state halls
towards the center of the
The palace of Xerxes, the
harem, and other living
quarters at the south end
of the site
Persian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
Structurally, the buildings
relied on a hypostyle
scheme throughout
They used it to achieve
spaces of varying scale
Some of the spaces were
very big and generally
square in plan
The spaces were enclosed
by mud brick walls
The most impressive aspect
of the palace was the royal
audience hall
Persian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
The Royal audience hall was a
square 250 feet in length
It contained 36 slender columns
widely space & 67 feet high
The columns had a lower diameter
of only 5 feet
The centers of the columns were
spaced 20 feet or 4 diameters apart
The column was the greatest
invention of the Persians
The columns were fluted and stand
on inverted bell shaped bases
Their capital combine Greek motifs
with Egyptian palm leaf topped by
an impost of paired beast
Persian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
Another famous aspect of the
palace at parsepolis was the
throne room
This was also known as hall
of a 100 columns
The columns in the room
were 37 feet high, with a
diameter of only 3 feet
They were spaced 20 feet
apart or seven diameters
from axis to axis
The slim nature of the column
created room and spacious
feeling in the room when
compared to the audience
Assyrian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
The monumental
entrance to Parsepolis is
also one of the unique
aspects of the Palace
The monumental gateway
ensure a dramatic entry
to the Palace
It was heavily adorned
with relief sculpture
ornamenting its stairway
Assyrian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
The relief structure
addresses different
themes relating to the
role of Parsepolis as
the capital of the
Persian Empire
Assyrian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
In some places, the
sculpture shows delegates
from the different parts of
the Persian bringing gifts
and rare animals to the
king during celebrations
In some places, royal
guards and nobles of the
imperial court are shown
Elsewhere, the king is seen
in conflict with animals or
seated beneath a
ceremonial umbrella
Assyrian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
The ruins of Parsepolis
have survived to the
present day
Existing ruins however
give a faulty expression
of the citys original
Some columns
supporting the halls of the
great halls have survived
The mud brick fabric of
the palace and its
enclosing walls have
perished completely
Assyrian Architecture
Palace at Perspolis
Only the sculptures
which adorn
doorways or windows
and openings and the
relief ornamenting its
entrance way remain
End of Module 3 Lecture 7
Module 3 Lecture 8
Architecture of the Ancient Near East
Outline of Lecture
Lecture 8
Architectural Characteristics
Buildings and other architectural elements
Building materials, construction and
Architectural Organizing principles
Architectural Characteristics
Buildings & Other Arch
Buildings & Other Arch. Elements
Building Types
3 building types examined in ANE; Cities and
houses, temples and palaces
Temples and palaces were the most
outstanding buildings types in ANE
Significant development in house organization
and city fortification was also witnessed
In Sumerian civilization, development in house
organization led to the evolution of the inward
looking courtyard house
Houses formed the dominant buildings of the
city with narrow passages to distribute people
Buildings & Other Arch. Elements
Building Types
Across all the civilizations, cities were usually
The walls were of massive brick material, with
evenly distributed towers serving as buttresses.
Examples of city wall or fortification examined
include City of Khorsabad and Babylon
The chiefs house at precinct of the Great
Ziggurat and the Palace at Parsepolis were
also fortified with brick walls.
Buildings & Other Arch. Elements
Temples and Palaces
Importance of temples and palaces varied
during the different periods of the ANE
Temples started during the Sumerian period
and were also common during the Babylonian
The Sumerian temples were raised on
Ziggurats, while the character of the Babylonian
temples is not certain because there is no trace
of them
The Sumerian temples had chief temples
located outside the city and the city temple
located within the fabric of the city
Buildings & Other Arch. Elements
Temples and Palaces
Neo-Babylonians also built great palaces. The
legendary palace of Nebuchadnezzar with its
hanging garden is widely reported in history
Temple building declined during the Assyrian
period, when palaces took over as the
prominent building type
The Palaces at Khorsabad and Parsepolis
shows the rise of the palace as the focus of
architectural development over the temple
Materials, Const. & Tech.
Materials, Construction & Tech.
Stone and timber suitable for building was rare
in the plains of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Clay was however in abundance
This was compressed in moulds and dried in
the sun to provide bricks for all buildings
Sun dried brick became the standard building
It was used across all the cultures of the
ancient Near East
Materials, Construction & Tech.
Wood was scarce but was imported from
Wood was probably applied mainly for roofing
or for producing tools and ornaments
Stone was used by the Assyrians but only for
relieve carving and for columnar support
It was in ancient Persia that extensive use of
stone witnessed
The Babylonians introduce glazed brick, which
was used in the faade of their gates and
prominent buildings
Materials, Construction & Tech.
The abundance of mud brick led to the
development of construction methods
appropriate to its physical properties.
Structurally Mud brick is weak when compared
to stone
To compensate, walls were very thick and
reinforced with buttresses.
This construction system is evident in the
Sumerian temples.
Vaulting was known and used during the
Mesopotamian period
Materials, Construction & Tech.
Rooms were usually roofed with domes or
Tunnel vaults were used to cover long narrow
oblong spaces.
Columnar construction was not very popular in
the ANE
It was used in few instances in the late Assyrian
and Neo-babylonian periods.
It was however extensively used by the Persians
Persian architecture, was an architecture that
borrowed from other cultures in the region,
including Egypt and Greek sources
Materials, Construction & Tech.
Two technologies appear to have been
commonly used in the Ancient Near East;
passive cooling and water supply.
The evolution of courtyard in Mesopotamia was
probably a product of its desert environment
and the need for climate modification.
Courtyards were used for cooling to create
livable environments in houses
The thick walls of houses may also have served
as a thermal storage
They help to mitigate against the wide
fluctuations of temperature
Materials, Construction & Tech.
People of the ancient Near East also mastered
the earth of water supply
Channels were used to move water and supply
it to agricultural fields and houses.
Ancient Babylon was said to have an aqueduct
that supplied water to the city.
The hanging garden in Nebuchadnezzars
palace would also be impossible without a
means of transporting water from the ground to
the garden
Principles of Arch.
Principles of Arch. Organization
Three principles appear to predominant in
the organization of architectural form and
Courtyard organization
Lifting of buildings on artificial mountains
Organic organization of city fabric
Forces Shaping Arch. Organ.
Three forces account for the prevailing
architectural organizing principles
Symbolism and meaning to the people
Social factors
Combination of the factors account for the
architectural forms that are witnessed in
all the cultures of the ANE
Forces Shaping Arch. Organ.
A strong factor in shaping spatial organization
and built form
Limited the availability of construction material
and constrained the development of
construction technology
Desert environment also meant t hash climatic
conditions which lead to the evolution of the
courtyard form of building
Prevalence of mud bricks coupled with the use
of courtyard fixed the form of buildings as a
regional solution.
Most buildings- whether house or palace, were
of one story multi-courtyard form
Forces Shaping Arch. Organ.
Symbolism and Meaning
Organizing principles may also be a factor of
symbolisms and meaning
The role of symbolism is evident in the Ziggurat
Sumerians think of ziggurat as a ladder to the
sky and to god
They believed that God came down to the
Ziggurat to communicating with the chief priest
Climbing the ziggurat is also associated with a
holy experience.
Symbolic meaning of ziggurat provides
motivation for the construction of larger and
more impressive mountains
Forces Shaping Arch. Organ.
Symbolism and Meaning
Palaces also symbolize power and authority
In Assyria, architecture expressed the authority
and power of the king
The palace at Khorsabad also shows the decline
in the symbolic importance of the temple
compared to the palace of the king, which is the
center of authority.
At Parsepolis, the palace also expresses the
authority and power of the emperor of the
Persian empire
This power is evident in the ability to
commandeer resources from as far as Egypt and
Lebanon to create a unique palace
Forces Shaping Arch. Organ.
Social Concerns
Social concerns contributed to the evolution of
design principles
There was need for defense due to warfare
Led to construction of wall fortifications for cities
Also to ziggurat as a place of refuge from attack
Concerns for privacy
Courtyard house may have evolved because of
privacy needs
End of Module 3