The Archives Of Nippur -- By: G. Herbert Livingston

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 06:1 (Winter 1993)
Article: The Archives Of Nippur
Author: G. Herbert Livingston


The Archives Of Nippur

G. Herbert Livingstona

All that remains of the city of Nippur are three large mounds of debris located about 100 miles south of Baghdad. Its modern name is Naffar, a rare instance of a site abandoned for a thousand years retaining to the present time its ancient name. The mounds rise about 55 ft above the surrounding plains on the east bank of the Euphrates River. The shape of the site is irregular, measuring somewhat less than a mile by a bit more than a mile. The important part of the city covered about 370 acres. The wall surrounding this area has eight, possibly nine, gates.

Discovering Ancient Nippur

In 1887 John P. Peters, of the University of Pennsylvania, took a team of archaeologists to explore Nippur but actual digging began in 1889 and continued off and on until 1890. Several buildings were located, a number of artifacts and inscribed tablets found. It was 1948 before the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago joined in three seasons of excavation that ended in 1952. They concentrated on the ziggurat dedicated to the god Enlil and on the archive found on Tablet Hill. In 1953 the American Schools of Oriental Research and the University of Chicago (Oriental Institute) engaged in excavation for five seasons, ending in 1962. Their work was centered on the North Temple and the Innana Temple. The last ten seasons of excavation were done by the Oriental Institute from 1964 to 1989.

Mesopotamia: Nippur upper left. Note ancient shoreline reaching to Ur in the time of Abraham.

Nippur’s History

A prehistoric settlement has not been found, but pottery sherds (broken pieces) indicate the presence of people on the site as early as 5500 BC and the probability of a temple existing between 4000 and 3000 BC. The earliest temple mentioned in records was where Enlil the air/storm god was worshiped.

Throughout recorded history, Nippur

continued to be the center of worshiping Enlil and in effect was the “holy city” of the area.

Seemingly the city was never politically independent, being dominated by neighboring cities, kingdoms or empires. Instead, the city was a religious, cultural center for the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, etc.

The times of prosperity and building activities centered in the reigns of the Semitic ruler Sargon I (2334–2279 BC), of the Sumerian Ur-Namu (2113–2093 BC), of the Babylonian Hammurabi (1792–1750 BC), of the rulers of the Kassite dynasty (ca 1400–1250 ...

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