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096. Tell Nuffar (ancient: Nippur)**

** = signs of recent looting

Al Qadisiya Governatorate. In the center of the southern Mesopotamian floodplain, about 180 kilometers  south of Baghdad, on the border of ancient Sumer and Akkad.

Dates: Circa 5,000 BC–200 AD; from early Ubaid to Parthian periods with interruptions in some areas on the main mounds; evidence of settlement up to Islamic (Abbasid) times, circa 800 AD in some of the smaller mounds.

Nippur, one of the most ancient of all the Babylonian cities of which we have any knowledge (some historians date it back to 5262 BC), was a Sumerian city, revered cultic center, and seat of the worship to the Sumerian god, Enlil (ruler of the cosmos, subject to An alone) and housed the Ekur, temple of Enlil, leader of the pantheon. According to political ideology, all kings who exercised hegemony in southern Mesopotamia were seen as having been given the kingship by Enlil, and they showed their respect to him by building projects and dedicating war booty and cultic objects.

Underscoring the city's religious purpose is this fact: in Sumerian cuneiform, the signs that translated as 'Nibru' and 'Enlil' are one and the same.

One of the largest sites in Mesopotamia, Nippur covers about 150 hectares, measures over 1-1/2 km across, and rises as much as 20 kilometers above the plain. The site is divided in two by the dried bed of a watercourse. In addition to the Ekur complex, consisting of a ziggurat and temple to Enlil, are other temples, the most important of which is the Inanna/ Ishtar temple. Careful excavations here uncovered more than 20 building levels from the Middle Uruk (4000 BC) – Parthian (220 AD),  providing the longest continuous archaeological sequence for Mesopotamia. Small finds include statuary, plaques with carved reliefs, objects with relief decoration and cylinder seals, and foundation deposits,; while the cuneiform texts discovered detail the operation and bureaucratic administration of the temple complex. Many tablets were excavated in  an area of the eastern mound known as Tablet hill or the Scribal Quarter. As late as the Parthian period, the Inanna temple was rebuilt, and a fortress was built in the ziggurat area.(which could not be excavated further, as the Iraqi Dept of Antiquities wanted to leave the Parthian fortress standing).

Excavations: University of Pennsylvania, late 19th c.; Oriental Institute, University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania, mid 20th c.; Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, mid-late 20th c.

Collections: Oriental Institute, Iraq National Museum

Sites Assessment: Nippur has for more than a hundred years been under excavation by an American expedition. Upon last inspection, there was no longer a guard at the site, but the dig house is still there. Since excavations and maintenance of the excavated area were not possible for a long time, the exposed mud brick architecture suffered from erosion. During late spring and summer of 2003, looting of the site destroyed a major part of the Ziggurat and may have occurred in areas other than the Ziqqurrat, such as the "Tablet Mound" (Areas TA / TB)], the outmost Northern tells of the city. At the small mound on the Northern fringe of the tell, about 50 to 100 holes were observed. More illicit holes seen on recent inspection.

  32° 7' 22.8000"  
  32.123° N
  45° 14' 6.0000"   
  45.235° E

The site encompasses more
than 20 hectares in a circle
approximately 1.5 km in
diameter. See site

Read about the Oriental Institute's Nippur Expedition