Sippar (Iraq)

The site of ancient Sippar, known today as Abu Habbah, lies southwest of Baghdad. Excavations have revealed a walled city with a small ziggurat in the centre surrounded by a group of public buildings.

In 1880 Hormuzd Rassam worked at the site. He found the 'Tablet of Shamash', which identified the city as Sippar and the temple in which he was digging as dedicated to the city's patron god Shamash. In the 18 months that followed, Rassam excavated about 170 rooms around the ziggurat and discovered many inscribed cylinders and tablets (he estimated about 40-50,000). These detailed the revenues and business activities of the temple staff in the Neo-Babylonian period.

The Belgian Archaeological Expedition worked at Sippar from 1972-3 and since 1978 the University of Baghdad has excavated there, finding a major library of Babylonian literary texts. Evidence now shows that Sippar was occupied from the Uruk period (fourth millennium BC) until the revolt against the Persian king, Xerxes, in 481 BC. After this date, all activities in the Sippar temple seem to have ceased.

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