Robert Koldewey [1855-1925] -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:4 (Autumn 1990)
Article: Robert Koldewey [1855-1925]
Author: Anonymous


Robert Koldewey [1855-1925]

Robert Koldewey and one of the hundreds of well-preserved
animal reliefs found on the gateways and walls of Babylon.

Look at a photograph or drawing of the vast area and the huge structures exposed to view by the excavations at ancient Babylon directed by Robert Koldewey and his assistant, Walter Andrae, and you will be impressed with the magnitude of his work. The first to use hand pushed “railroad cars” for earth moving, he also inaugurated truly scientific excavation in Mesopotamia by his careful stratigraphic procedures.

“Typically German,” you might say, were his dull reports, which failed to reach the general public. Yet his prestigious patrons - Berlin Museum, German Oriental Society and Kaiser Wilhelm II - funded him to the extent of nearly half a million dollars. Doubtless he earned it, for he prepared well for his career by studying architecture, archaeology, and ancient history at Berlin Museum, and Vienna.

After two expeditions in the classical world under the German Archaeological Institute and one in Iraq (1887, under the British Museum),

Koldewey spent ten years of combined teaching at Gorlitz and excavating in the Mediterranean region. Then, in 1897, he began to see his wildest dreams materialize, when the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft commissioned him to survey for promising sites in Mesopotamia. Their primary interest was in new finds of cuneiform tablets, and Koldewey convinced them he should dig the ruins of Babylon.

By 1914 Koldewey was able to report, “Part of this [north] wall still exists and is recognisable at the present time in the guise of a low ridge about four to five kilometres in length. Up to the present we have only excavated a small part, so…only possible to give a detailed description of the most noteworthy features of these fortifications, that were rendered so famous by Greek authors. There was a massive wall of crude brick seven metres thick, in front of which […about 12 metres] stood another wall of burnt brick 7–8 metres thick…”1 His studies in classical history enabled Koldewey to lean heavily on the Greek historian Herodotus and others to guide him as to what to look for as he plotted the strategy of the dig.

The total circumference of the walls was found to be about 10.6 mi, less than the approximately 53 mi given by Herodotus or the 40 mi of Ctesias, but Koldewey’s estimate of 360 towers in all is a larger one than theirs. The famous Code of Hammurabi had been plundered by raiders and carried to Susa (Persia), where it...

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