The West face of Birs Nimrood


Porter made several views of the tower at Birs Nimrood from all angles, and gave a lengthy description in his Travels. He thought that it was the remains of the Temple of Belus (or Baal), the ziggurat reputedly built by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar on the site of the Tower of Babel in the 6th century BCE. Porter’s observation was partly based on the burnt nature of the bricks used to construct the tower, which he conflated with the baked bricks described in the Book of Genesis.

This view of the west face of the tower gives a good impression of the abruptness of the mound, which sits on a plain to the southwest of Hillah, east of the Euphrates, in present-day Iraq’s Babylon Province. This is now known as the site of the ancient city of Borsippa. Porter emphasises the silhouette by outlining the hill in ink.

Full title:
The West face of Birs Nimrood
November 1818
Watercolour / View
Sir Robert Ker Porter
© British Library
Usage terms
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence
Held by
British Library
Add. MS 14758, f.139

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Sir Robert Ker Porter's accounts of his travels in the Middle East gave a glimpse into a region that was largely unknown to most Europeans. His original watercolours provide a compelling visual source and are both descriptive of their settings and beautiful works of art in their own right. Christopher Wright recounts Porter's journey into an unfamiliar and enchanting landscape.

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