Mellon Senior Fellows 2002

Research, January 2002 to December 2002

Juan Antonio Ramírez
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, so we can use it to reduce somewhat the harmful consequences of language confusion. We all know that the Mesopotamian ziggurats are at the origin of the Tower of Babel—these grandiose brick buildings supported on their summit a temple which could be reached by a complex succession of steps. This research interrogates the legendary aspect of the Babylon ziggurat (which was erected around 1100 BC), not the archaeological details of this building. The imaginary memory of this tower, or of many other such towers in Mesopotamia, can be found in the biblical account of the Tower of Babel. The codified image of the Tower of Babel as a spiral-shaped building, placed on a circular base, seems to have imposed itself in the mid-sixteenth century as a consequence of the arrival in Europe of drawings and descriptions of some towers of the Middle East, which captivated by their exotic disposition.

The CCA Mellon Foundation Senior Fellowship Program was established in 2001 to encourage advanced research in architectural history and thought. With the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the CCA has appointed distinguished scholars for residencies of one to eight months, culminating in a public lectures delivered at the CCA.


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