Historical Genesis

From Adam To Abraham

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Chapter 21 - Further Explorations

Excursions by successive travelers in the early 1800s provided only meager additional news. Fraser and Loftus traversed almost the entire length of the alluvial plain and reported what was received back home as startling news:

...the whole surface was literally covered with large towers, extensive mounds, and numerous smaller ruins, with frequent traces of ancient canals, fragments of bricks, statuary, and many other objects of a high antiquity.

Sir Austen Henry Layard may have been the first of the early explorers to adequately prepare himself for a fascinating life of adventure. In his first expedition (1845-47) he sent agents to probe several prospective sites between the Tigris and Zab rivers, turning his own attention to the southwest corner of Nimrud where he uncovered the first bas-reliefs. Near the west edge he found a crouching lion, the torsos of a pair of giant winged bulls, winged lions, and in the center of the mound, a nine-foot tall human figurine. In addition to inscriptions and sculptures, "vast edifices" were found in the interior of the mound of Nimrud.

Layard returned to Babylon in 1850 and explored the region, beginning operations at Babil. He exposed massive piers and buttresses of brickwork frequently bearing the name of Nebuchadrezzar, but no clues emerged as to the original character of this enormous structure.

The French found interest in the area and in 1851 sent a team directed by Fulgence Fresnel, assisted by Assyriologist, Jules Oppert. After initial explorations in Mosul on a raft of 300 goatskins, they embarked upon the Tigris for Baghdad. There they delayed for several months until a rumor began to circulate that a golden statue of Nebuchadrezzar had been found at Babylon, which set them immediately in motion and heading south. In July, 1852 operations began at the Qasr with modest to negligible results.

The most imposing of all the mounds is Babil at the northern end of the vast complex. The French explorers dug to a limited degree at the base and on top where they found a few common bricks, pieces of stone and glass, and part of an inscription in Greek. Unhappy with their finds and believing that ancient Babylon covered a much larger area, the French pushed out to other mounds which likewise yielded insignificant results. After two years of effort, the weary French explorers left Babylonia. The antiquities recovered were placed aboard a French boat that sank in the muddy waters of the Tigris.

What we find is that building ziggurats was simply in vogue in those days. The Tower of Babel was one among a number of ziggurats constructed in cities throughout the region. Clearly building the tower and the confusion of tongues at Babel loomed large to the participants, but the tower itself was one among many. It may not have been the biggest, and it cannot be identified as the first or the last.