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In the middle of the third millennium BCE, the ancient Mesopotamians began building huge stepped platforms out of fired bricks called ziggurats. Their significance and purpose are not clear but they are believed to have held shrines, although the only evidence for this comes from Herodotus, and no shrines have ever been found on any of the dozens of ziggurats that lie scattered in the deserts of Iran and Iraq. The shrines were believed to be the dwelling places for the gods and each city had its own patron god. Only priests, who were very powerful members of Sumerian society, were permitted on the ziggurat or in the rooms at its base, and it was their responsibility to care for the gods and attend to their needs.


Photo credit: Aladdin Hussam/Panoramio

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