NIPPUR
(modern NIFFAR, some 150 kilometers southeast of Baghdad)
   It was first excavated by Henry Austen Layard in 1851, then by the University of Pennsylvania (1888–1900), and subsequently, from 1948 on, by the Oriental Institute, Chicago (since 1952 jointly with Pennsylvania). The city has a long history of occupation reaching back to the seventh millennium B.C. It was never the seat of a dynasty, although in the third millennium, Nippur seemed to have had an important role in confirming a dynasty’s legitimacy. Its most important structures were temples, especially the Ekur (the temple of Enlil) and the Inanna temple. There were many other smaller temples and chapels in the city. Many Mesopotamian kings throughout history honored the gods of Nippur by endowing and repairing its sanctuaries and depositing votive gifts. It also had a reputation as a center of learning, and most of the extant copies of Sumerian literary works from the Old Babylonian period were discovered in the Nippur libraries, which belonged to private individuals rather than institutions.
   The city suffered a major environmental crisis in the 18th century B.C., precipitated by the shift westward of the Euphrates, which originally ran right through the town. Nippur revived in the Kassite period, after a break of almost 300 years. Apalacefrom this time has been found. In 1224, Nippur was attacked and destroyed by the Elamites, and most of the population left, leaving only the priests to maintain the cult of Enlil.
   After centuries of near abandonment, the city prospered once more in the first millennium B.C. Ashurbanipalrebuilt the temple, and the city regained its ancient privileges and its importance in the NeoBabylonian period and thereafter under the rule of Achaemenids, when it was a center of commercial activity and especially banking, as documented by the archives of the Murashu family.
   See also KIDEN-HUTRAN.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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