Heather D. Baker

(Universität Wien, Österreich)

Many of the published plans of Babylon as it is supposed to have looked during the time of Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) are misleading because the methods used in reconstructing the city layout are based on false premises which can be traced back to works published in the 1930s. This applies even to plans reproduced in recent popular books on ancient cities. The inaccuracies are perpetuated in most of the plans of Babylon which are available on the internet. Moreover, written descriptions of the ancient city which are published on the web tend to give greater prominence to the accounts of later, classical authors than to the contemporary Babylonian evidence, archaeological and textual. Given the importance of the site, not to mention the sensitivity of its status at the moment, clearly an improved and more authoritative method of presenting the city plan to a wider audience is desirable. This paper aims therefore to present a critique of previous reconstructions of Babylon and to offer some thoughts on alternative approaches to reconstructing the city using the excavation records and the written sources for its topography. It argues for a more nuanced approach to urban space which takes into account the various modes of land use attested within the city rather than simply focusing on the monumental structures, as popular accounts of the city tend to do. Feedback as to how these ideas might eventually be addressed and the results presented using new technologies will be especially welcomed.

Keywords: Ancient Babylon; city planning; excavation; reconstruction