Babylon Is FINALLY UNESCO-Certified, Here Are 8 Reasons Why It Was Always Worthy

A Battle Finally Won

Just recently, 29 sites and properties were inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list after the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee, and we’re thrilled that a particular one that has always been deserving of the title, finally got it. Babylon, ladies and gentlemen, is finally a World Heritage Site! 

Southern Palace. Image: UNESCO/Qahtan Al-Abeed

This has finally happened after five refusals starting in 1982, imagine!

“What is the world heritage list without Babylon? How to tell the history of humanity without the earliest of old chapters, Babylon?” [sic] said Iraq’s representative to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee before the vote.

See also: The UNESCO World Heritage List Has All The World’s Top Attractions – But How Do They Qualify For It?

Shrouded in myths, mysteries and legends of the famous Ishtar Gate (parts of which are now in museums in Europe), the Hanging Gardens (which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and the Tower of Babel, the ancient Mesopotamian city was once a thriving, splendorous hub ruled by historic figures such as Nebuchadnezzar II and Hammurabi. It also served as the capital of the most influential empires of the ancient world 4,000 years ago.

Nabu Sha Khare Temple. Image: UNESCO/Qahtan Al-Abeed

Sure, it’s hard to picture that now considering that it was left damaged and in ruins due to poor human management, unworkable restoration efforts and conflict (read: Saddam Hussein’s replica palace, and the US-led army who made this site their base).

To top it off, much of its ruins are still hasn’t been excavated in modern day Iraq, 85 kilometres away from Baghdad. It has been said that only 18% of the site has been unearthed so far.  

Northern Palace. Image: UNESCO/Qahtan Al-Abeed

But, that didn’t stop the committee after all these years, from realising that Babylon was indeed an important centre of history and culture. Plus, it’s worth noting that this once-capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire inspired artistic and religious culture around the world. 

Ninmakh Temple. Image: UNESCO/Qahtan Al-Abeed

“The Babylonians were the civilisation of writing, administration and science,” said Qahtan al-Abeed, who helms the Basra Antiquities Department. He led efforts to get Babylon listed in UNESCO, and stated that Babylon’s success of being part of the list will now encourage research and development of the site. 

See also: 10 Incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites In Asia For That Unforgettable Cultural Trip

At A Glance: Babylon’s Influence On The Modern World

Shrine of Imran bin Ali. Image: UNESCO/Qahtan Al-Abeed

Just in case you were wondering what other contributions can be credited to Babylon aside from its folk story of the beautiful Hanging Gardens, here are more substantial reasons:

1. The ancient Babylonians were the first to use geometry.

2. Hammurabi, the great king of the Amorites, was the first law giver. The laws he set upon the city were called ‘The Code Of Hammurabi’, consisted of the civil code, penal code, code of procedure and commercial code. It also contained laws relating to marriage, divorce, property, contract, trade and commerce, mortgage of land, religion, criminal laws concerning murder, theft, treachery, dishonesty, negligence in duty and so on.

(It’s also worth noting that The Code Of Hammurabi empowered women’s rights over property, and it also protected widows, slaves and orphans.)

3. They were one of the few civilisations to use Cuneiform writing, and used more than 350 signs. They wrote with pens made of bone and bamboo on soft clay tablets, which  they then baked under the sun. 

4. They were one of the first people to push for education, especially during the reign of Hammurabi. There is a writing on some parts of a Babylonian school ruins which states “He who shall excel in tablet-writing shall shine like the sun.” 

5. The Babylonians wrote many books (over 2,000) on religion, science, mathematics and astrology.

6. They wrote the ancient poem ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’

Epic of Gilgamesh on a clay tablet. Image: Wikimedia Commons

7. They had exceptional architecture skills: they built big palaces, kept gigantic images of bulls having the heads of men near the entrance gate of the palace, built the great Ziggurat built by Hammurabi and big granary to preserve grains for future calamities. Plus, varieties of seals have been discovered by excavation which further shows the artistic skills of the Babylonians.

Greek Theatre. Image: UNESCO/Qahtan Al-Abeed

8. They championed administration. Besides The Code of Hammurabi, royal orders were also written on clay tablets to administrators as a reminder to them to adopt compassion, liberal attitudes and honesty in the field of administration. Hence, it is seen that the Babylonian administration was directed for the welfare of the people.

See also: The Latest Addition To Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site List Is An Eel Trap Site. What Makes It So Special?

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Written by Kathlyn Ursula D'Souza

Professionally a journalist, personally a lover of all things fried chicken, Gogorn (her big black German Shepherd) and ice cream.

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