Dur-Kurigalzu (modern `Aqar-Qūf عقرقوف in Baghdad Governorate, Iraq) was a city in southern Mesopotamia, near the confluence of the Tigris and Diyala rivers, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of the center of Baghdad. It was founded by a Kassite king of Babylon, Kurigalzu I, some time in the 14th century BC, and was abandoned after the fall of the Kassite dynasty. The prefix Dur- is an Akkadian term meaning "fortress of", while the Kassite royal name Kurigalzu, since it is repeated in the Kassite king list, may have a descriptive meaning as an epithet, such as "herder of the folk (or of the Kassites)".[1] The city contained a ziggurat and temples dedicated to Mesopotamian gods, as well as a royal palace. The ziggurat was unusually well-preserved, standing to a height of about 52 metres (171 ft).

A large, partially restored, brick building with a soldier in front
The ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu in 2010
Dur-Kurigalzu is located in Iraq
Shown within Iraq
Dur-Kurigalzu is located in West and Central Asia
Dur-Kurigalzu (West and Central Asia)
LocationBaghdad Governorate, Iraq
Coordinates33°21′13″N 44°12′8″E / 33.35361°N 44.20222°E / 33.35361; 44.20222Coordinates: 33°21′13″N 44°12′8″E / 33.35361°N 44.20222°E / 33.35361; 44.20222
Area225 ha (560 acres)
Site notes
Excavation dates1942–1945
ArchaeologistsTaha Baqir, S. Lloyd


The town of Dur Kurigalzu was founded by the Kassite King Kurigalzu I in the late 15th or early 14th century BC and is situated along an east–west-trending limestone ridge between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Until the last century, the adjacent Aqar Quf depression would have been inundated with flood water part of the year. This site had access to fresh water from the Euphrates by means of the Isa Canal, known as the Patti-Enlil Canal in ancient times. The city functioned as the capital of Babylonia during the reign of Kurigalzu, and either as the capital or at least an important city during the period after.[2] It was occupied continuously until the fall of the Kassite Dynasty in the 12th century BC, when it was largely abandoned. The temple area, at least, was known to be active in the 7th century BC and in the Neo-Babylonian period. Up until recently (mostly between the 9th and 14th centuries AD), there have been smaller occupations at parts of Aqar Quf, with areas of the site being used for burials and for Arab settlement.[3]

In Kassite times the area was defined by a large wall that enclosed about 225 hectares (560 acres). The wall, orginally built by Kurigalzu I, was later rebuilt by Kurigalzu II.[4] The shape of the city is elongated and features several mounds, perhaps reflecting a functional separation of the parts of the site. The hill of Aqar Quf is dominated by the most visible monument at the site, a ziggurat devoted to the main god of the Babylonian pantheon, Enlil. Because of the uniformity of architectural features, the ziggurat and surrounding temple complexes appear to have been founded by the Kassite king, Kurigalzu. The ziggurat measured 69 by 67.6 metres (226 ft × 222 ft) at its base. It was approached by three main staircases leading up to the first terrace, which has been reconstructed by the Iraqi Directorate-General of Antiquities. The surrounding temple-complex has only been excavated on the south-west side of the ziggurat. The palace area of Tell al-Abyad consists of several stratigraphic architectural layers, which suggests several phases of building in this area over the entire stretch of the Kassite period, and therefore has great potential to yield an invaluable sequence of pottery and other material for the period. Associated tablets confirm that the structure was occupied throughout the Kassite period. The palace has innovative architectural features, being constructed in modules of three rooms around large courts. In addition, excavators also discovered a treasury on the east of the palace and a probable throne room or royal reception/ceremonial chamber.


The Ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu (1915).

The Ziggurat of Dur-kurigalzu currently stands in present-day Iraq. It's a massive structure from ancient Mesopotamia and is one of the most important features in the city, acting as a prominent archeological and religious building for the city people. Rituals, offerings, statues, harvests, and music would be performed in hopes for returns in blessings. In particular, the ziggurat of 'Aqar Qūf is located in the city's western area and is devoted to the Babylonnian God Enlil, who sumerians believed to govern over wind, air, earth, and storm.[5] As Sumerians believed that gods lived at the top of the Ziggurat, only highly respected individuals and priests could enter at that time.

Upon excavations in 1942 by the Iraq government more details about the Ziggurat were undercovered. The ziggurat's base measuring 69m x 67m was constructed of large, well- tempered liben with many stamped bricks incorporated into the structure, bearing the name of Kuri- galzu and his dedication of the temple E-U-GAL to Enlil.[6] Facing the front, the Ziggurat can be approached from three main staircases leading up to the first level. Standing upright on the level withholds a terraced compound, built by layers of receding levels. At its core, there are consistent sun-dried square bricks with reed mats placed in every seven layers of brick to help hold the structure all together. An axial flight of steps was discovered during the third excavation in 1944, running outwards from the center of the side of the ziggurat towards the temple-complex and was built of solid kiln-baked brick set in bitumen.[7]

The Ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu was built in the 14th century BC by the Kassite king Kurigalzu.[8] The core of the structure consists of sun-dried square bricks. Reed mats were placed every seven layers of brick, used for drainage and to assist in holding the bricks together by providing a continuous layer of support. The outer layers of the ziggurat are made from fired bricks. An inscription on one of the fired bricks states that it was laid during the reign of King Kurigalzu II. Today both types of brick, sun-dried and fired, are still made in Iraq in the same fashion and used in farm houses.

The ziggurat at Aqar Quf has been a very visible ancient monument for centuries. For camel caravans and modern road traffic, the ziggurat has served as a signal of the near approach to Baghdad. The site has been one of the favorite places where Baghdadi families have gone to picnic on Fridays, even before it was excavated. A small museum, built in the 1960s, has served to introduce visitors to the site. The structure needs renovation, however.

Because of Aqar Quf's easy accessibility and close proximity to the city of Baghdad, it has been one of Iraq's most visited and best known sites. Its ziggurat has been an outstanding monument for centuries, often confused with the Tower of Babel by Western visitors in the area from the 17th century onwards.


The site was visited by Bengt Bengtsson Oxenstierna in 1616.[9]The site was then described by Claudius James Rich in 1811.[10] Aqar Quf (referred to then as Akerkuf, Agger Koof, or Akar-kuf) was visited and examined in 1837 by Francis Rawdon Chesney.[11] The name of Dur-Kurigalzu was identified by Henry Rawlinson in the mid-19th century.

Door socket from Dur-Kurikalzu
Male head from Dur-Kurigalzu, Iraq, reign of Marduk-apla-iddina I. Iraq Museum.

Excavations were conducted from 1942 through 1945, by Taha Baqir and Seton Lloyd in a joint excavation by the Iraqi Directorate-General of Antiquities and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq.[12][13][14] Over 100 cuneiform tablets of the Kassite period were recovered, now in the Iraq Museum. During the excavation of Dur-Kurikalzu 5 fragments of a larger than life size statue were discovered. They contain the longest yet found Kassite Sumerian inscriptions.[15][16]

3-D reconstruction of the remains of the main palatial complex in Dur-Kurigalzu.

The excavations included the ziggurat, three temples and part of the palace of Dur Kurigalzu II. The Iraqi Directorate-General of Antiquities has continued to do some excavation around the ziggurat as part of a restoration project under Saddam Hussein during the 1970s that had reconstructed the lowest stage of the structure.[17] The three excavated areas are the mound of Aqar Quf (including the ziggurat and large temple), a public building (approximately 100 metres (330 ft) to the west), and Tell al-Abyad where a large palace was partially uncovered (about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the south-west). The erosion of the ziggurat exposed details of construction that are not readily available in any other temple tower. Thus, it has been a valuable primer for architectural historians. Nowhere else are the layers of reed mats and reed bundles that hold the structure together and offset differential settling as visible as they are here. Many of the currently known major works of art from the Kassite period were found within the palace (located at Tell al-Abyad) at Aqar Quf. Another area within Dur-Kurigalzu, Tell Abu Shijar, was excavated by Iraqi archaeologists and the results have recently been published.[18]

The area of Aqar Quf has potential for future excavations since only small areas within the enclosure wall have been excavated. Especially important is the possibility of a stratigraphic column through all of Kassite times.

Wall Paintings at Tell al-AbyadEdit

Some of the most significant finds of Kassite period artwork are found in the main palatial complex (P1) and its surrounding complexes (located at Tell al-Abyad) of Dur-Kurigalzu about 1000 meters northwest of the main ziggurrat.. The recurring motifs of the artwork found on all four levels of the palatial complex are representational and contain human processional scenes and clusters of fruit; there are also geometric designs that contain parallel bands, chevrons and rosettes.[19] The processional scenes date to the time of the last Kassite king Marduk-apla-iddina I.[20] The representational motif of human figures are also some of the only surviving instances of human representation in artwork from the Kassite period and gives indication of the artistic technique utilised at the time.[21] The majority of large, upright wall paintings can be found in the internal rooms of the palace that would have functioned as reception or public rooms. The highest concentration of this wall painting type can be found in Unit H sector on Level II named also ‘PaintedPalace’, dating to the reign of Kaštiliaš IV.[19]

Another wall painting type is also found along recesses of the courtyards and between rooms and contain the same motifs of floral and geometric designs and processional scenes that Yoko Tomabechi states functions to 'brighten the doorways and the inner rooms'.[19] The colours utilised in these paintings are 'red, cobalt-blue, dark-blue, yellow, white and black'.[19] Much of the palatial complex and its artwork inside remain unexcavated and need further exploration.

The TemplesEdit

At the base of the ziggurat steps is a pavement that leads to one of the four excavated temples, E-U-GAL. This would also continue to lead into a court and several smaller rooms adjoining it. The other three temples are E-GASAN-AN-TA-GAL, E-SAG-DINGIR-RI-E-NE, and E-SAG-DINGIR-E-NE. King Kurigalzu appears to have built all these temples under great patronage. The entire complex mostly has liben walls that is thickly covered with plaster and may bear traces of fire, which suspects to be attempts in destroying the site in the past.[22]


E-U-GAL, which is likely to mean “The House of the Great Lord,” is believed to be the most important temple of Dur Kurigalzu. This name could also refer to the entire temple complex or the entire site as the text was engraved into bricks in all three temples and in the ziggurat.[22]


3-D reconstruction of the remains of the temple complex in Dur-Kurigalzu.

The name of the temple is a combination of “The House of the Lady” and words meaning “high”, “firm”, or “great”. Inside this temple is a small staircase that leads up to an altar, subsidiary courts, and a room that appears to be the kitchen where a raised rectangular compartment was excavated and assumed to be an oven.[22]

The TowerEdit

Between E-GASAN-AN-TA-GAL and E-U-GAL is a massive ruin, excavated to be 17 meters tall, that could be the foundation of a tower which was weathered away by floods. This structure was also made with liben and faced with baked bricks.[22]

Current statusEdit

For 16 seasons in the 1960s and 1970s the Iraqi government did conservation and restoration work at the site.[23][24] Aqar Quf is currently suffering environmental damage and urban encroachment. Natural factors like rain and standing groundwater have contributed to the erosion of the ziggurat and damage to the ruins, especially along the south-west side. As a result of this damage, the ziggurat is in danger of further deterioration as well as collapse if preventive measures are not taken. The suburbs and industrial areas of Baghdad also continue developing near to the site. Currently there is encroachment of modern construction along some stretches of the enclosure wall. There is also agricultural encroachment along the enclosure wall, especially on the south-west side. Iraqi Army maneuvers, involving trenches, did some damage to the site in the 1980s.

The ziggurat suffered damage as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the site was abandoned and looted during the security breakdown and chaos that followed the U.S. military's overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Little is left of the modern administration building, museum, event stage and restaurant that once served the picnickers and students who visited the site before the war. Local government officials and the U.S. military charged with security in the area have been working to create a renovation plan. Since mid-2008, local officials have drafted plans to rebuild the historic site, but support from the Iraq Ministry of History and Ruins has not materialized.[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The name does occur also other than royally. J.A. Brinkman, Materials and Studies for Kassite History I (University of Chicago) 1976:245 and references; there is an incubation-dream narrative of which the hero is Kurigalzu surrounded by courtiers, clearly a king, according to Irving L. Finkel, "The Dream of Kurigalzu and the Tablet of Sins" Anatolian Studies 33 (1983:75-80).
  2. ^ T. Clayden, Kurigalzu I and the Restoration of Babylonia, Iraq, vol. 58, pp. 109-121, 1996
  3. ^ T. Clayden, Aspects of the early history of the Kassites and the archaeology of the Kassite period in Iraq (c.1600-1150 BC), Oxford University PhD Dissertation, 1989
  4. ^ Walker, C. B. F. “A Duplicate Brick of Kurigalzu II.” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 32, no. 4, 1980, pp. 247–48
  5. ^ T. Clayden,Dur-Kurigalzu: New Perspectives, Volume 2 Kardunias. Babylonia under the Kassites 2. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2017.
  6. ^ Taha Baqir, Iraq Government Excavations at 'Aqar Quf, 1942-1943. Iraq Supplement. London, pp. 1-16, 1944
  7. ^ Taha Baqir, Iraq Government Excavations at 'Aqar Quf: Second Interim Report, 1943 - 1944. Iraq Supplement, pp. 1-15. London, 1945
  8. ^ J A Brinkman, Materials and Studies for Kassite History Vol I: A Catalogue of Cuneiform Sources Pertaining to Specific Monarchs of the Kassite Dynasty, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1976, ISBN 0-918986-00-1
  9. ^ Potts, Daniel T. "Bengt Bengtsson Oxenstierna (1591–1643): A critical reassessment of his two journeys to the Near East." Fornvännen 116.2 (2021): 114-128
  10. ^ Claudius James Rich, Narrative of a journey to the site of Babylon in 1811, Duncan and Malcolm, 1839
  11. ^ Francis Rawdon Chesney, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition ... 1835, 1836, and 1837, Spottiswood and co, 1868 (Nabu Press - 2010 ISBN 978-1-143-08161-3)
  12. ^ Taha Baqir, Iraq Government Excavations at 'Aqar Quf, 1942-1943. Iraq Supplement. London, pp. 1-16, 1944
  13. ^ Taha Baqir, Iraq Government Excavations at 'Aqar Quf: Second Interim Report, 1943 - 1944. Iraq Supplement, pp. 1-15. London, 1945
  14. ^ Taha Baqir, Iraq Government Excavations at 'Aqar Quf: Third Interim Report, 1944 - 1945, Iraq, vol. 8, pp. 73-93, 1946
  15. ^ Kramer, S. N.; Baqir, T.; and Levy, S. J., "Fragments of a Diorite Statue of Kurigalzu in the Iraq Museum.", Sumer, vol. 4, pp. 1–38, 1948
  16. ^ [1] Niek Veldhuis, "Kurigalzu's Statue Inscription", Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 60, pp. 25-52, 2008
  17. ^ Jeffery Orchard, Recent Restoration Work in Iraq, Iraq, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 73-77, 1962
  18. ^ Ata K. Jasim et al., Tell Abu Shijar, near 'Aqar Quf : Summary of excavations, vol. 127, no. 2, pp. 155-166, 2006 Jasim et al.2006
  19. ^ a b c d Tomabechi, Yoko (April 1983). "Wall Paintings from Dur Kurigalzu". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 42: 123–131. JSTOR 544171.
  20. ^ Pizzimenti, Sara. "Colours in Late Bronze Mesopotamia. Some Hints on Wall Paintings from Dur Kurigalzu, Nuzi and Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta." 7 International Congress on the Archaeology of Ancient Near East. Vol. 2. Harrassowitz, 2012.
  21. ^ I Batelmus, II Sternitzke, I Alexa, II Katja (2017). Kardunias. Babylonia Under the Kassites. Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 437–478. ISBN 978-1-5015-1216-2.
  22. ^ a b c d Baqir, Taha (January 1942). "Iraq Government Excavations at 'Aqar Qūf First Interim Report 1942–1943". Iraq. 1944 (S1): 3–16. doi:10.1017/S0021088900019732. ISSN 0021-0889.
  23. ^ al-Jumailly, A. I., Investigations and restoration at the ziggurat of Aqar Quf (10th–13th season), Sumer, vol. 27, pp. 63–98, in Arabic, 1971
  24. ^ Ali, S. M., Archaeological conservation in Aqar Quf. The sixteenth season, Sumer, vol. 26, pp. 150–7, in Arabic, 1980
  25. ^ Travis J. Tritten - Stars and Strips Mideast edition (2009-01-25). "Resurrecting the ruins of Aqar Quf". Stripes.com. Retrieved 2013-02-12.

Further readingEdit

  • Taha Baqir, Aqar Quf, Directorate General of Antiquities in Baghdad, 1959
  • J. A. Brinkman, Assyrian merchants at Dūr-Kurigalzu, NABU 2001/73, 2001
  • O. R. Gurney, Texts from Dur-Kurigalzu, Iraq, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 131–149, 1949
  • O. R. Gurney, Further Texts from Dur-Kurigalzu, Sumer, vol. 9, pp. 21–34, 1953
  • Kühne, Harmut. "'Aqar Quf". The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. Oxford, 1997. Vol. I, pp. 156–157.
  • A. Al-Khayyat, Aqar Quf. Capitale des Cassites, Dossiers d'Archéologie, no. 103, pp. 59–61, 1986
  • T Clayden, Moulded Mud-Brick at Dur Kurigalzu, Al-Rafidan, vol. 21, pp. 71–83, 2000
  • Niek Veldhuis, Kurigalzu'S Statue Inscription, Journal of cuneiform studies, vol. 60, pp. 25–51, 2008
  • The Collapse of a Complex State, A Reappraisal of the End of the First Dynasty of Babylon 1683-1597 B.C., Seth Richardson, dissertation, Columbia University, 2002
  • The Kassites of Ancient Mesopotamian: Origins, Politics, and Culture, Walter Sommerfield, vol 2 of J. M. Sasson ed. "Civilizations of the Ancient Near East", Charles Scribner's Sons, 1995

External linksEdit