World's first city
'Ziggurats were the focal and spiritual centre of the city...'
Persians and then Romans resurrected the city, but it was finally abandoned in the fourth century AD, and it was only rediscovered in the early 20th century, by German archaeologists. It now consists of a vast number of mounds - the remains of ancient buildings - covering acres of land, dominated by the huge bulk of a ziggurat. This is a stepped pyramid, formed with a series of terraces and ramps, a form of construction that seems to have been evolved by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, and was taken over and developed by succeeding Mesopotamian civilisations such as the Assyrians. Ziggurats were the focal and spiritual centre of the city, the earthly dwellings of the gods, and their ramps were the stairways to heaven up which priests would ascend to converse with their deities.
Much could be learned from Ashur, as archaeologists have not yet fully excavated the site, but it seems that its secrets are soon to die with the city. One of the more destructive policies of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq has been to dam the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flow south into the Persian Gulf, to an extent that is both ecologically and environmentally disastrous. Construction work has now started that will dam the Tigris at Ashur, so that a large portion of the ancient city centre will soon be submerged.