I remember many years ago going through a book about ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia. In the passages where the ziggurats were described there was a mention that each level of the pyramid was dyed in red or white. I memorized the colors because they seemed a bit odd choice to me.

Not long ago it crossed my mind that this choice of colors might be linked to the type of government in the early Sumerian culture - one lugal(priest king) and upper chamber of the elders(whose color was white) and the lower chamber of the young warriors(whose color was red).

So I've decided to do a little research on internet. But all I found was description of ziggurats after Semitic tribes had gained control over the area(the ziggurats in Assyria and Babylonia). Apparently, during this era the colors had some kind of astrological meaning, for instance: each level of the pyramid was linked to a certain planet and was painted with the color that represented that planet.

Now, ancient history is just a hobby for me, so I might be on a wrong track here due to lack on information or reading something that is not entirely true. But I still wonder which one is true - were the ziggurats in early Sumer pained in red and white or were they dyed in all the colors of the rainbow?

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    Is there any reason to believe that there was a single color scheme? You state that you've done research, but I don't see it documented, do you intend for us to repeat your research?
    – MCW
    Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 18:23
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    As I said I read in a book that the different levels of the ziggurat were pained in red and white. That book was an old one, as far as I can recall it was issued during the 70s. So maybe the information in it is outdated. I don't want anybody to do a research, I was hoping for someone with the knowledge to clear the matter up for me. Commented Jun 4, 2017 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


It appears the consensus is indicating multiple colors.

In Mesopotamia the seven stages of a ziggurat were each painted a different color, the colors being emblematic of the seven planets Handcock Mesopotamian Archaeology p 273

The Uses of Symbolism in Greek Art ...By Janet M. Macdonald

The above quote from a book in 1922, and it appears to be quoting another source on Mesopotamia by Hancock.

Another source discussing the ziggurat says:

The ziggurat consists of several terraces made of bricks on the top of which a small chapel was erected open in front with an altar before it The chapel contained the image of the god sometimes the walls of the terraces were made of enameled bricks in different colors black white purple blue red silver and gold

A more recent source, Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives By Jane McIntosh, has a different color list claiming the colors are Black, White, Red, Blue, Orange, Silver and Gold.

So some form of these may be your actual color combinations. One more source seems to identify again the astronomical implications of the colors:

The seven stages equally high and each one smaller in area than the one below it were covered with stucco of various colors thus exhibiting to view the colors consecrated to the seven great celestial bodies the least important being at the base This tower was the ziggurat or observatory on whose summit the priestly disciples of the Chaldaeans endeavored to divine the future in the stars.

Illustrated History of All Nations: Containing a Record of the ..., Volume 1 By Israel Smith Clare


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