8 comments

  • tablespoon 12 days ago
    The article photo looks like it's actually of a Mayan pyramid, which is silly since it seems like there are perfectly impressive pictures of actual Ziggurats: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat.
    • thaumasiotes 12 days ago
      > it seems like there are perfectly impressive pictures of actual Ziggurats: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat

      Well, that might be true, but if there are they don't appear on that page. We see a ziggurat that is still underground, a sketch of a ziggurat, a ziggurat that has been reconstructed in modern times, a model of a ziggurat, the back wall of a ziggurat (that is otherwise still underground), and a rather different-looking building from the 1970s which is apparently inspired by ziggurats.

      The reconstructed Ziggurat of Ur is very impressive indeed, but it's understandable that the article might have wanted a picture of an ancient structure rather than a modern reconstruction.

      • throwaway894345 12 days ago
        There was some documentary I watched about how disparate cultures all over the world independently invented pyramids and similar structures. Basically covergent evolution applied to ideas.
        • duped 12 days ago
          Another way to look at them is a great example of survivorship bias.

          There's not much in the way of buildings that humans can build tall with hand tools and preindustrial materials that last thousands of years but stone pyramids. Even masonry doesn't hold up to history, unless it gets buried (people like to tear buildings down and reuse small, light pieces - a limestone block isn't exactly portable).

        • contingencies 12 days ago
          I think the idea is pre-cognitively expressed in hominid behavioral patterns: sweeping views + army of allies beneath and around you = physical safety. Well, since pterodactyls died out, anyway.
          • AlotOfReading 12 days ago
            Evo-psych is usually pretty hard to nail down into a singular argument that isn't simply projecting your own assumptions back out.

            Take the case of Teotihuacan for example, which is at the bottom of a large valley surrounded by mountains. The famous avenue of the dead is oriented to point directly at one of those mountains, Cerro Gordo. It's a lot of effort to go to for a shitty vantage point when you can just build a hillfort a few miles away, like they did at Monte Alban.

            • contingencies 12 days ago
              Good point. However, if you can see it in all hominids, it's probably legit. ie. strength in numbers + defensible positions vs. predators, preference for sweeping open views vs. predators, etc. Ultimately moving rocks in an agricultural society can begin with the simple requirements to til the fields more efficiently. What starts as a pile may become the symbol of the legitimacy of the dynasty...
              • throwaway894345 10 days ago
                I don’t think you do see it in all hominids, but rather only in sapiens, and probably only in the agrarian societies at that.
        • ncmncm 12 days ago
          Nobody knows what any particular ziggurat looked like, or what features were common to them. It is mostly speculation.

          The article mentions the Hanging Gardens of "Babylon", but no contemporary source mentions any such thing in any Babylon of history. The best evidence we do have suggests that classical mentions, which don't say where, describe what was found archaeologically in Nineveh, present day Mosul 400 mi north of the ancient site of Babylon. Nineveh, in the time of the Neo-assyrians, had what may have been the first aquaduct (centuries before any of Rome's) feeding water to their elevated gardens. The Neo-assyrians cultivated a reputation for genocide of defeated people, and public torture of their leaders.

          • IncRnd 11 days ago
            > Nobody knows what any particular ziggurat looked like, or what features were common to them. It is mostly speculation.

            You can see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chogha_Zanbil for pictures of the remaining ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil.

            • ncmncm 11 days ago
              I am corrected: we know something about how some ziggurats looked.
          • IncRnd 12 days ago
            Yes, that's it. The picture is of the temple of Kukulcán in Chichen Itzam, Yucatan, Mexico.
        • mcguire 12 days ago
          Saw the title and was thinking, "Yes, and?" It's not exactly a crazy surprise.

          On the other hand, the article is good as a general introduction, and I hadn't heard of the Great Mosque of Samarra (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mosque_of_Samarra) before. Neat.

          • drewcoo 12 days ago
            Consider the source: Deseret News. It's likely a subject not because of surprise but because it's a shallow exploration of other faiths.
            • an1sotropy 12 days ago
              indeed, and with LDS sometimes it's even less than an exploration of other faiths, and more about hoping to project their own faith on others' histories. e.g. https://www.science.org/content/article/how-mormon-lawyer-tr...
              • cogman10 12 days ago
                Sometimes? It's more of an almost always thing. Mormons will try and bend every single ancient american archeological nugget into a faith promoting confirmation of the Book of Mormon narrative.

                A mezoamerican city buried in the jungle? Obviously a confirmation that zerahelma was real!

                The foundation of mormonism is confirmation bias.

            • mojomark 12 days ago
              Shocking how much the Great Mosque of Samarra looks like the depictions of the Tower of Babel [1]. That reminds me of the awesome Bad Religion song Skyscraper [2].

              I really need some ADHD medication.

              1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel

              2. Skyscraper. https://youtu.be/ELBjwltRp3E

              • mdturnerphys 12 days ago
                "Seeing this minaret, medieval Europeans mistook it for the biblical Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9), and, as such, it lent its form to medieval and Renaissance representations of the tower, as in the famous “Tower of Babel” by Bruegel (1563)."
                • voz_ 12 days ago
                  That depiction of Babel is by Peter Bruegel, a fantastic artist but obviously just making stuff up (1563) vs supposed biblical occurrence (far before that - but probably not real at all).

                  Its also far closer to the Colosseum, if we are comparing structures in reality vs art.

              • allemagne 12 days ago
                Anything notable about this article I'm missing? Just seems pretty tame for being on the front page
                • greenthrow 12 days ago
                  No, it is extemely low quality and does not deserve to be on here.
                • dahart 12 days ago
                  There’s a rejection sampling method named after Ziggurats that was named because of the shape of the ancient temples https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat_algorithm
                  • ETH_start 12 days ago
                    Religious structures commonly ascend upward in a pyramid/cone shape, toward a point. This seems to map to a hierarchy of human values, in order to symbolize the supreme value that should guide a person and society (e.g. a supreme all-powerful, life-giving consciousness).
                    • brundolf 12 days ago
                      Anybody else learn the word via this videogame?

                      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat_(video_game)

                    • Archelaos 12 days ago
                      > Most religions have attempted to build their sanctuaries on prominent heights to be visible to all the faithful.

                      Most? Can we even count religions?

                      • 8bitsrule 12 days ago
                        AFAIK we can't even count 'temples', a word archeologists frequently ascribe to buildings of many sizes with nary a shred of evidence that they're not community centers, beer halls, warehouses or king's palaces. A century ago it was 'obvious' that Giza was covered with gigantic 'tombs'. Among the hazards in viewing mysterious, undocumented past civilizations through culturally-conditioned eyes.
                        • christophilus 12 days ago
                          I was thinking the same thing. 4000 years from now, someone will discover the goddess “Statue of Liberty” submerged in the Atlantic:

                          There were many tall temples built to worship her. Made of steel, concrete, and glass— presumably the glass allowed priests to gaze out at the monolithic goddess as they ascended to the tops of the towers. Some of these temples even had pools of water on the rooftops. That, plus the fact that the goddess was on her own island, makes it clear that Liberty was a water goddess.

                          • JetAlone 11 days ago
                            It's interesting that you bring up the Statue of Liberty. In Japanese she is called "自由の女神", "Jiyuu no Megami" which can be translated as "Goddess of Freedom". So future anthropologists with a limited snapshot of Japanese culture could find a picture of the Statue of Liberty captioned in Japanese, and conclude she was explicitly considered a goddess or divine spirit of sorts.

                            I think it's worth pointing out, too, the Statue of Liberty is one of the icons of what scholars of religious studies call the "American Civil Religion". In terms of 1700s liberalism, she carries a torch, a "sacred fire" of liberty (I get vibes of prometheus, or the raven who brought down the sun) from France where the first massive liberal revolution took place, to America, home of the second revolutionary liberal state.

                            I think American Civil Religion is about the tradition and growth of the US "distro" of liberalism. Another major landmark, the Temple of Abraham Lincoln gives us an ascended figure from a story of how liberalism is supposed to have beaten the deeply contradictory institution of slavery that inhabited it. Mt. Rushmore immortalizes 4 founding fathers, etc.

                            • 8bitsrule 11 days ago
                              Thanks for sharing those thoughts. Many European immigrants arriving in NY's harbor to be admitted (often to get their names changed for them by 'helpful' officers) probably got more than a bit emotional seeing this great sculpture promising them a better future.

                              Many had made a long sea-voyage after leaving their families behind. One of them was my 16-year-old grandmother; her only companion chickened-out at the last minute. They faced an unknown future armed only with promises. Liberty's very substantial promise (different to each of them) wasn't always kept, but no doubt many of them felt better about their brave choice.

                        • JetAlone 12 days ago
                          I tried to remember some counterexamples etc.

                          When I think of a deliberately subterranean sanctuary, I imagine Christian catacomb churches, something selected out of necessity and later revered for the legend of the struggle. Anchorites would often live underground in cells. Egyptian tombs were places of a intense, one-time devotion for upper-level hierarchs, I should think? Then sealed-off.

                          Many Japanese temples are built on mountaintops, and major mountain rages around the world are usually host to monasteries as quiet places of contemplation. Oftentimes a temple not built in a high place is in some other manner auspicious. In East Asia, "Ley Lines" play an important role in where to place a temple. Very small Zoroastrian fire temples were usually placed as community hubs - they look just a little taller than surrounding buildings in some photos but I'm less certain height was such a concern? I remember seeing a documentary where a very revered fire that has been burning for hundreds or thousands of years if not, (perhaps only apocryphally), for as long as Zorastrianism has existed is in something of a pit carved into the side of a cliff.

                          I'm going to aim as far back as we've got records, to Gobekli Tepe and give an excerpt from Wikipedia: "Göbekli Tepe is located in the Taş Tepeler ('Stone Hills'), in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains.[24] It overlooks the Harran plain and the headwaters of the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates.[24] The site is a tell (artificial mound) situated on a flat limestone plateau.[25] In the north, the plateau is connected to the neighbouring mountains by a narrow promontory. In all other directions, the ridge descends steeply into slopes and steep cliffs." Caveat: This was thousands of years ago so the geology could have been somewhat different. But it was probably a high place albeit not the very highest. A local raised formation.

                          The conclusion I feel comfortable making is, a great deal of factors go into deciding where to place a religious sanctuary. Where we put the temple, how big we build it, what we put in it is all about the meaning to us (so long as we're not driven underground, or far-afield by persecutors). But I'll unfold my "evolutionary religious studies" lawnchair/armchair to say it seems to me like surviving systems converge on the importance of height, and I think that's because what height tends to means to us (strength for a difficult climb, solitude for contemplation, vision of our surroundings, visibility from afar) are very worthy ideals that help us survive as societies and individudals. But also worth considering is; control of high places correlates to control of a large enough territory to agriculturally support heavier development up there. The dominant worldview model can eventually gain access to high places and when it does, it has the capacity to build its temples/monastic communities there.

                        • blipvert 12 days ago
                          Ziggurat Vertigo.

                          Good times ……