1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ancient Babylon named World Heritage Site

July 6, 2019

The UN body has described the ancient city as a "unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world." After years of damaging interventions, Babylon will now gain protected status.

Gate of Ishtar in Babylon
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Al Mohammedaw

The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday designated the ancient city of Babylon as a World Heritage Site, recognizing its "outstanding value to humanity."

"The inscription represents a recognition of the outstanding human value and the unique significance of this ancient city and of the civilizations of Mesopotamia and their contributions to humanity," the Iraqi government said in a tweet.

UNESCO said Babylon's "remains, outer and inner-city walls, gates, palaces and temples, are a unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world."

Babylon's listing brings the number of World Heritage Sites in Iraq — long considered a cradle of civilization — to six. The listing also gives the ancient city, founded in 2,300 BCE as an Akkadian town, protected status under international treaties.

Read more: Resurrecting Palmyra's legendary architecture

A man visits the archaeological site of Babylon, Iraq
Renovation work undertaken Saddam Hussein's regime further damaged parts of the ruinsImage: picture-alliance/A. Khalil

Troubled history

Meeting in Baku, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted in favor of listing the Iraqi historic site just years after another protected site was destroyed by extremist militants.

In 2015, the "Islamic State" terrorist group announced that it had bulldozed the ancient city of Nimrud, saying its pre-Islamic "idols" amounted to heresy. The group also destroyed other pre-Islamic sites in Iraq and Syria.

Babylon, once home to Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II, has a history punctuated by architectural interventions.

The late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein built a palace adorned with replicas of his face overlooking the site. After he was overthrown during the US-led invasion of Iraq, American and Polish soldiers built a base in Babylon, significantly damaging parts of its ruins in the process.

Read more: Ancient Egypt holds priceless treasures yet to be discovered

Every evening, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

ls/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)