The ‘Tower of Babel’ is a structure that is mentioned in the Bible in the Old Testament in Genesis. The Biblical account describes how the descendants of Noe who migrated from Armenia towards Babylon (in Mesopotamia) decided to build a city and a tower whose architectural excellence would make them famous. But, God caused confusion by confounding their tongues, so that they did not understand each other’s speech. Slowly they moved away from that place and they ceased to build the city.

Interestingly, historians and archaeologists (people who study old ruins) have searched for this tower and city, but haven’t found any documentary proof that the tower existed.

Tower of Babel (Babylon), a famous painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder created in 1563.
Tower of Babel (Babylon), a famous painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder created in 1563.

However, there is a reference to this tower of Babel in the ‘History of Berosus’ written by Abydenus. Here, the tower is referred to as being built at Babylon on the banks of the river Euphrates.

Most scientists follow the common opinion which identifies the tower of Babel with the ruins of the Birs-Nimrud, in Borsippa, situated on the right bank of the Euphrates outside the city.

The tower itself must have resembled similar constructions that have been excavated. Most of these structures are in ruins but they are similar in shape and structure to ancient pyramids of Egypt in that cubic blocks of masonry have been piled one on top of the other to form various stories.

An inclined stairway leads from one story to the other. Some of the excavated towers at Ur and Arach (in present day Iraq) are two or three stories tall, while others have six and even seven stories.

The similarity to the pyramids is reinforced by the fact that the corners of these towers (sides of the Egyptian pyramids) face the four points of the compass.

At its very top is a room that could have been used as a place of worship or as an observatory. Some historians say that nearly every Babylonian city possessed such a tower or ziggurat (a pointed, high memorial).

Anyway, irrespective of whether the tower existed or not, the term ‘Tower of Babel’ has now come to signify a confusion of noises all speaking at the same time so that no particular dialogue or sentence is decipherable.

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Readability: Grade 10 (15-16 year old children)
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