Sunday, July 13, 2008

Temple of Inanna

All kinds of religious spaces have been created in Second Life. There are all manner of churches and cathedrals, temples and so on. But there are also those spaces that take us backwards through time. I attended the Stepping into History conference last month and was given the opportunity to discover Babylon.

This build was created by the Federation of American Scientists Learning Technologies Project, UCLA’s Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, Escape Hatch Entertainment, and the Walters Art Museum. It's a very detailed recreation of the ancient city of Uruk which was to be ruled by the legendary figure of Gilgamesh around 2700BCE. It's yet to be finished but it promises to provide a fascinating glimpse into an ancient culture.

The Temple of Inanna forms part of this build. The temple itself is surrounded by a number of other buildings which are more mundane such as barracks, kitchens, archives and workshops. Inside the temple, a statue of Inanna presides from the altar. It's certainly a very atmospheric space. Lamps flicker, casting their light on the rich red walls. A notecard gives you more detailed information about the build:
'Most of what is known of the ED I [Early Dynastic] period holy buildings comes from the domestic areas of a city- the equivalent of a modern day neighborhood church. A temple on the other hand, would have been more like a cathedral. Evidence for Early Dynastic temples come from the Diyala region, which is just outside of Mesopotamia along the Diyala River. The Oval Temple of Khafaje is the best known of these and is the primary model for the temple complex.

'ED I period temples were typically self contained within a perimeter wall. Shrines to the gods were often placed on top of steep sided terraces. These were, over time, repaired and enlarged. A new shrine was then constructed on top. The surrounding buildings were more utilitarian than holy in nature. Workshops, barracks, kitchens, minor shrines, and archives would have been located inside the complex.

'Though the temple and its structures were made primarily of sun-dried and fired mud brick, scholars generally agree that temples were plastered white. This would have made them look brilliant in the desert sun. The terrace and principle shrine reconstruction have been given an even more pristine coat of plaster, because this structure, of all the other buildings in the complex, would have been maintained best. The others were given a more worn look to reflect their utilitarian nature. The walls of the complex are old and its plaster is cracked and peeling. Some of its underlying bricks can be seen. These bricks, called plano-convex, are an important archaeological time marker for the ED I period. They were laid out in what is often termed as a herring bone pattern. Limestone flooring was typical, and those found in archaeological excavations are usually laid out in squares. However, because stone was at a premium (there is no good building stone in southern Mesopotamia—it had to be imported), much of it would have been reused over time. This pattern reflects older stones of various shapes and sizes that have been reassembled for the tile.'
I'm eagerly awaiting the completion of this project. It promises to offer a truly immersive experience (you even get to outfit your avatar!) If you'd like to learn more about this project, point your browser to Discover Babylon.

Helen Farley

No comments: