Located in the fabled ancient city of Babylon, adjacent to the Processional Way and the iconic Ishtar Gate, the Ninmakh Temple was rebuilt several times during the reigns of Esarhaddon, Assurbanipal, and Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century. Ninmakh was a mother goddess in ancient Mesopotamia. Her dedicated temple was first excavated by Hormuzd Rassam in 1880 before being re-excavated by archaeologists of the Koldewey Expedition (1899–1914) and later reconstructed by Iraqi archaeologists in the 1960s. The excavations revealed that each rebuild was several meters higher than the previous. Raising the walls in this way had resulted in the preservation of earlier walls and of white lime-gypsum plaster.
During Saddam Hussein’s Revival of Babylon project in the 1980s and 1990s, Ninmakh Temple became the model for a series of temple and house reconstructions. Despite late twentieth-century interventions and subsequent years of neglect, the Nimkah Temple contains substantial amounts of original fabric preserving its authenticity and integrity. Today, the temple is in poor condition because of a combination of material incompatibilities, improper water drainage, rising groundwater, and importantly, a lack of maintenance.
Monuments Fund has been committed to conservation efforts at Babylon for over fifteen years through an initiative known as the Future of Babylon Project that has included documentation, conditions surveys, development of conservation plans, and the creation of the Babylon Site Management Plan (BSMP), as well as physical interventions at the Lion of Babylon and Ishtar Gate. WMF’s project at Ninmakh Temple—supported by the US Embassy in Baghdad—focuses on the thorough study, documentation, and subsequent restoration of the building.
A priority component of the project is also training the project team in conservation techniques for unbaked mudbrick, different from baked brick, the primary material used for the Ishtar Gate. WMF will engage local and international experts to mentor the local project staff and build their transferable skills to ensure the sustainability of Babylon’s built heritage. Project activities will also improve the temple’s infrastructure and visitor amenities, for its envisioned reuse as a cultural venue.