September 10, 2011 - An Archeologist is Born

– 1855

Have you ever heard of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?

They were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Probably built by King Nebuchadnezzar II sometime around 600 B.C., during the height of Babylon's power, the lush gardens were planted on a rectangle of walls that have been described as 26 feet thick and deep enough to hold the roots of trees. Since the gardens were thus raised up in tiers, they resembled a theater. History tells us that something like an Archimedes screw lifted river water up to the gardens, and that Nebuchadnezzar used massive slabs of stone to prevent water from eroding the ground.

None of this was at all usual in the ancient world!

Robert Koldeway was born on this day in 1855, and when he grew up, he wanted to know if the hanging gardens were actual history or just legend. He went to Iraq, the site of ancient Babylon, and with his team unearthed outer walls, inner walls, foundations for a ziggurat (a step-pyramid temple), palaces, and a wide roadway that extended to the Ishtar Gate. (There were eight gates ringed around the triple-walled city of Babylon.)

By the way, even though Koldeway and others considered the foundations that he found to prove the existence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, some historians disagree and believe that the gardens have been mixed up with those of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.

Can you name any of the Seven Wonders of the World?

Here is a virtual tour of these seven amazing architectural feats. Note that they don't include such wonderful creations as Teotihuacan, in Mexico, or the Great Wall of China. That's because the “7 Wonders” was a sort of ancient guidebook for ancient tourists who lived around the Mediterranean. Sometimes, as new buildings or monuments were erected, the writers of Top-7 lists would replace one of the wonders with that new creation. (For example, when the Lighthouse of Alexandria was built, it “bumped” Babylon's Ishtar Gate out of 7-Wonder status.) 

You have to take this tour virtually, because none of the 7 Wonders still remains in good condition, except for one. Can you pick the one that is still around from this list?

  1. The Great Pyramid of Egypt
  2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. The Colossus of Rhodes
  7. The Lighthouse of Alexandria

Check out the pictures and info about Babylon and the Hanging Gardens here. Also, Mr. Donn has a collection of links about Babylon. 

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