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The ziggurats from the Mesopotamian area and the Great Pyramids of Giza could not be more similar and completely different from each other. They are both gigantic man-made structures of their eras and are highly respected structures. Looking at each structure, both the pyramids and ziggurats share a striking similarity in form; both share the quality of a pyramidal shape. The ziggurats of the ancient near east is a stepped pyramid structure; compared to the Great Pyramids of Giza have a four sided base with each side coming to a point at the top, giving the pyramid for triangular sides that where smooth at one time.

Ancient Ziggurat at Ali Air Base in Iraq

Both these magnificent structures were built to honor someone of significance from that era. The ziggurats where built to honor the gods and goddesses of the religious beliefs of the Mesopotamian people. Compared to the Egyptians who built the pyramids to honor their pharaohs and their most important possessions.

Prymaid of Pharaoh Khufu

The pyramid’s main design purpose was to preserve the dead. They serve as huge tombs for the pharaohs and their possessions. The pyramids had chambers inside them to hold various items as well as the dead body of the pharaoh and his queen. Usually, the chambers of the pharaoh and queen were located high with in the pyramid’s structure.

US Soldiers climbing the stairs of the Ziggurat of Ur

The ziggurats, on the other hand, were built to honor a specific god or goddess. Many archeologists believe there was a temple, or shrine, at the top of the ziggurat, where offerings and praise where offered to the god. Textual evidence also suggests that this was a link between heaven and earth. The temple, or shrine, was a meeting place of the gods and humans.

The ziggurats where built by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites, Akkadians, and Assyrians, all from the Mesopotamian area. These massive structures where built from sun baked bricks for the core of the structure; as for the outside, they used fired bricks which often where glazed with different colors. Many ziggurats contained multiple colored tiers. Ziggurats contained between two and seven tiers. On the colored tiers you might have found writings of either the current King’s name that had the ziggurat built; also you could have found the name of the god or goddess that the ziggurat was built for. Within the Ziggurat walls, you had many other buildings that served other purposes; such as a courtyard, storage rooms, living quarters, and bathrooms. Just on the outside of the ziggurat was the city; usually the city walls butted up against the walls of the ziggurat as to protect it from outsiders.

The ziggurats did not measure up in size to the pyramids. The ziggurats measured only to be approximately 150 feet in height on average compared to the great pyramids that at one time believe to be approximately 450 feet tall. The pyramids where the largest man made structure of its time and for approximately 1,300 years after. These massive structures where built by the pharaoh’s slaves, which moved large limestone blocks into place.

Picture of the Pyramids Casing Stone that colapsed from one of the Great Pyramids

The out layer of the pyramids consisted of a casing stone that had a smooth outer surface. This casing stone was a white limestone that was highly polished for a smooth surface. Both layers of limestone used for the core structural core and outer layer, was carved at a local quarry near the pyramids, and then brought to the site. Inside, the pyramid contained three chambers. A lower chamber, which was located beneath the bedrock, held some of the possessions belonging to the pharaoh. The king and queen chambers where located higher within the pyramid structure. These chambers where lined with a more valuable and richer looking stone which was transported from a location approximately 500 miles north of the pyramids.

As you can see, both the ziggurat and the Great Pyramids where built with a purpose to respect and honor a significant individual; whether that was a god or a king. They both had a pyramidal structure but beyond that they start to be very different. The ziggurats were intended to pay respect and give offerings to the gods compared to the Great Pyramids that were built as a tomb and final resting spot for the pharaoh, his queen, and most prized possessions.