Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is known or its striking reconstructions of large architectural features. One of these, perhaps the most obvious as this is how the Museum acquired its name, is the Pergamon Altar – from the ancient city of the Pergamene Kingdom in modern-day Turkey. Another imposing reconstruction is the Ishtar gate from Babylon, the ancient Mesopotamian city in what is today Iraq.
The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. Thought to have been built around 575 BC during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, the gate was dedicated to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Hence its name. As part of the city walls of Babylon, the Ishtar Gate was one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.
In 1899 the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey began excavating at the city of Babylon. The finds from this excavation were then used to create a life-size construction of the Ishtar Gate, widely regarded as one of the most spectacular reconstructions in the history of archaeology. The reconstruction was completed in 1930 for the Pergamon Museum, on MuseumInsel in Berlin. A number of pieces from the Processional Way were sold to other museums, and these can be seen in 11 museums around the world.
Reconstructed Gate from Babylon
The reconstructed front section of the Ishtar Gate.
Dragons and Aurochs on the Ishtar Gate.
Cuneiform script thought to be the ‘dedication plaque’.
Close up of one of the aurochs.
A Reconstructed Processional Way in Berlin
Reconstruction of a portion of the Processional Way.
Model of the Processional Way and Ishtar Gate as it was in Babylon.
One of the lions on the walls of the Processional Way.
A close up of a lion’s head, showing exquisite detail.
The Ishar Gate is part of the Pergamon’s Ancient Near East Museum (Vorderasiatisches Museum), which has artefacts covering 6,000 years of prehistory from this area, including Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia. Many of these objects (over 270,000 of them) come from excavations at historically significant sites such as Babylon, Assur, Uruk and Habuba Kabira.
Artefacts from Uruk include the earliest forms of writing – cuneiform script on clay tablets dating to about the fourth millennium BCE.
Also in the Pergamon Museum:
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The Ishtar Gate in Museums Around the World
Parts of the Ishtar Gate and the molded and glazed brick representations of Lions and other animals from Babylon’s Processional Way, can be seen in other museums around the world.
Oriental Institute Museum, Chicago
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
- Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Istanbul
- Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
- Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg
- State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich
- Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Rhode Island