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1 January 2012
Oldest representation of the Tower of Babel

Carved on a black stone, which has already been dubbed the 'Tower of Babel' stele, the inscription dates to 604-562 BCE. It was found in the collection of Martin Schoyen, a businessman from Norway who owns the largest private manuscript assemblage formed in the 20th century.
     Consisting of 13,717 manuscript items spanning over 5,000 years, the collection also includes a large number of pictographic and cuneiform tablets - some of the earliest known written documents - spanning most of the written history of Mesopotamia, an area near modern Iraq.
     A total of 107 cuneiform texts, dating from the Uruk period about 5,000 years ago to the Persian period about 2,400 years ago, have been now translated by an international group of scholars and published in the book 'Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schoyen Collection'.
     The Tower of Babel stele clearly shows the Tower and King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled Babylon some 2,500 years ago. The first Babylonian king to rule Egypt, he is also famous for building the legendary Hanging Gardens - one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world - and many temples all over Babylonia.
     In the inscription, his standing figure is portrayed with the royal conical hat, holding a staff in his left hand and a scroll (or a foundation nail) in his outstretched right hand. Calling himself the 'great restorer and builder of holy places,' he also reconstructed Etemenanki, a 7-story, almost 90-metre-tall temple (known as a ziggurat) dedicated to the god Marduk.
     According to Andrew George, a professor of Babylonian at the University of London and editor of the book, the relief yields only the fourth certain representation of Nebuchadnezzar II. The inscription also depicts the Tower of Babel in face view, features a line drawing of the ground plan of the temple, and clearly identifies the tower as the 'great ziggurat of Babylon'.

Edited from Discovery News (27 December 2011)

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