[Assyrian: ziqquratu ]
A square or rectangular stepped tower with three or more stages, one of the most distinctive and enduring forms of Mesopotamian religious architecture. The first ziggurats were built in the mid-3rd millennium bc; the latest examples were still being renovated in the 6th century bc.
Ziggurats first appeared in southern Iraq, in the major religious centres of the Sumerians, at sites such as Ur ( see Mesopotamia, fig. ), Eridu, Uruk, Kish and Nippur. The earliest known ziggurats are at Kish and date to the Early Dynastic III period (c. 2600–c. 2400 bc). All other Sumerian ziggurats date to the Ur III period (c. 2100–c. 2000 bc); these ziggurats were rebuilt many times, however, which may well have obscured or obliterated their earlier forms. In the 2nd millennium bc the ziggurat, together with many other aspects of Sumerian religious life, was taken over by the ...