Tower of Babel: Archaeologists find brick to prove existence
The Tower of Babel remains one of the most mysterious elements of the Bible story. According to the book, it was a structure located in the land of Shinar — Babylon — built some time after the Deluge or Great Flood. Its construction and the story behind it is given in Genesis 11:1-9, where people said: “‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’
“They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
“Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'”
There are no remains of the tower with many researchers of the opinion that the story may have been an attempt to explain the existence of various human languages.
Others contend that the tower is pure myth: a metaphor.
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Tower of Babel: The tower features in Genesis 11:1-9
However, there is at least some evidence that suggests the tower was built under the watch of the great King Nebuchadnezzar II, who, in 585 BC, led a bid for world supremacy.
In order to fulfil this ambition, he laid siege to Jerusalem, 500 miles to the west.
His army sacked the city and captured its most highly-skilled and highly-educated citizens, taking them back to Babylon as prisoners of war.
They were forced to work for Nebuchadnezzar in a period that is now known as the Babylonian captivity.
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As the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Secrets Unlocked: Tower of Babel’, noted: “While in Babylon, the captives became known as the Jewish people — the very authors of the Bible.”
Here, another theory about the tower’s creation and later destruction was raised: that the captives went on to write of its destruction in order to “rewrite their own history”.
Experts believe that the Jews held captive in Babylon witnessed the tower being built and were at first awestruck by its might.
But soon, it became a symbol of their oppression and prison.
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Dr Irving Finkel: He said the brick suggests that the tower could have existed
Inscription: The brick is inscribed revealing that it was commissioned by Nebuchadnezzar
Dr Irving Finkel of the British Museum said: “When you look at the early chapters of the Bible, it is clear that some of it is drawn from the Judeans’ own records, and some of it incorporates narratives which they must have encountered for the first time in Babylon which were so powerful and striking that the authors, the philosophers who worked on the Hebrew texts incorporated them to tell their own story.”
Crucially, the narrator noted: “And there’s a compelling clue in the story that backs up a theory that Jewish slaves witnessed the tower being built during their time in captivity.”
While little remains from the time period concerned, during excavation work, archaeologists have come across a brick commissioned by Nebuchadnezzar.
It was, at first, difficult to conclude whether or not it had been used to construct the tower.
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After analysis of its material was carried out, researchers had something of a eureka moment, discovering that it carried traces of a strange, highly unusual material from the time: bitumen, which is an ancient tar and mortar.
In the opening lines of Genesis 11:1-9, the author states that those who built the tower, “used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar”.
For Dr Finkel, it was a clear sign that the brick in question was the one used in the tower.
He said: “What we have here is one brick and its bitumen, which fits exactly into that special context.
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“There can be no doubt that the stimulus for the story and the narrative must have taken shape during the Babylonian exile.”
This evidence suggests the Tower of Babel was a real building, its story written by a “desperate population in exile held captive by a ruthless king”.
Drawing on the research and Dr Finkel’s conclusions, the narrator said: “The destruction of the tower was their [the captives] way to rewrite history — it’s a fiction rooted in truth.”