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Towers of Babel

British Museum curator Irving Finkel © Trustees of the British Museum. Created by British Museum.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user nichole.dirks
    While I don't disagree with any of the facts presented in the video, I find the video misleading in regards to the Biblical account. The tower of babel that was built by Nebuchadnezzer couldn't be the same tower that is described in Genesis. The book of Genesis was probably written by Moses at the same time as the books of the Law (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). These books including Genesis make up the Torah which is the foundation for the Hebrew faith. Nebuchadnezzar ruled during the exile of the Hebrews which was much later and is described in the book of Daniel. Is this video referring to the Nebuchadnezzar of Daniel's time or someone much earlier in history?
    (12 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Christian Laube
    Is this Video not in the wrong section here? I mean yes the tower of Babel was a near eastern Building of ancient times. But there is verry little discussion about the actual building, (which no longer exists and is therefore hard to talk about it's architecture or art) but it is mostly about depictions of the building from much later times. So the art is from a lot of time periods but not the ancient times.
    (7 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user cattyleigh
    If there was nothing left of the tower, how do we know the exact architecture of it? Or is it just a guess?
    (4 votes)
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    • cacteye yellow style avatar for user Karlar
      Yes, that is a good question. We have the base of the Tower of Babel, but the rest of it is all destroyed. Many artists have made their own depictions of the tower, but we don't know how any more than the first five feet looked like.
      (3 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user ilikeapplesauce1788
    Have the towers ever been found?
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf yellow style avatar for user Gnayuo
    At of the video, the virtual metrics of the ziggurat is shown to be so heavenly in height and monumental in comparison to the mortals of the ground; I wonder how many generations it took to achieve this, given the tools in the prehistoric past?
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Emily S
    at what is all those buildings?
    (2 votes)
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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Jordan Masek
    Between @ and @, does anyone know exactly what languages are being spoken?
    (2 votes)
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  • old spice man green style avatar for user CielAllen08
    What book in the Bible tells the story about the tower of Babel?I read the Bible everyday and I'm reading in Numbers so I forgot which book in the Bible tells the story of the tower of Babel.
    (1 vote)
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  • duskpin seed style avatar for user Maddy Pierce
    I agree with nichole and it is not a good represintation
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Heather Parlane
    What is the image at the end of the video, showing a collage of different buildings on a hill ?Is this a real place or a piece of art?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

The Tower of Babel built in the second millennium BC in the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq depicted by artists through the ages and a powerful symbol of both myth and reality When people think of the Tower of Babel they often think of this painting which is here behind me blown up much larger than life-size and it's how the Dutch painter Bruegel in the sixteenth century brought to life this amazing edifice which has towered over the world since genesis was first put to paper This really is a painting one has to look at very carefully It's full of extraordinary things not least the fact that part of the tower seems to be completely finished and part of it still in a rudimentary state and you might imagine that it would all be rudimentary and then all finished at once but if you've ever worked on a big building project you'll know that isn't the case What people don't often know however is that the Tower of Babel itself as imagined here was once a real building called the Ziggurat in the centre of the capital Babylon ruled over by Nebuchadnezzar II And parallel to this historical account the Old Testament tells us that the tower built so that its top may reach onto heaven became a symbol of human ambition when the whole world had just one language Nothing remains on the ground of Nebuchadnezzar's huge edifice the Ziggurrat nothing remains at all, all the bricks have vanished But when the surveyors investigated they established that the ground plan was about 91 meters squared so it was a huge building and when all the evidence is put together it's been concluded that the building itself must have been about 17 meters tall And on this model there are human beings put in to scale just to give it an idea exactly how huge it was and how this building in its hay day towered over people's lives just like the Tower of Babel does when you read the Bible The Bible tells us that man was to be punished for building his tower to the heavens and that punishment was to be the creation of different languages so that humans would be divided and unable to understand each other My fascination with the Tower of Babel began from about 1990 onward looking at for example Bruegel's famous painting Anne Desmet is one of the contemporary artists in the exhibition who has an enduring fascination with this image The Tower of Babel story is significant in that I find it as a symbol of human aspiration and folly that combination of the ambition of human ideals and human dreams and then perhaps overreaching themselves sometimes but there's still something wonderful in that ambition and I think there's something in our own generation when there are moments of apocalypse 9/11 was another one obviously an obvious one but it seems to make you think back to that historical tradition of the Tower of Babel it seems still a very relevant image for today