NIPPUR nĭ poor’. An ancient Mesopotamian city about one hundred m. S of Baghdad or fifty m. SE of Babylon. It was founded by the “Ubaid” people c. 4,000 b.c. Although the city wielded no political power, it was the undisputed religious and cultural center from the early third millennium until the days of Hammurabi. From the 17th cent. until the 14th, datable material ceases. By the time of Hammurabi, Nippur had yielded to Babylon as a religious and cultural center, but it continued to be an important city down to Parthian times.
Nippur was the seat of the cult of Enlil, and the ancient renown of this god insured his city the continued care on the part of the Babylonian kings. As late as the 7th cent. b.c., the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, restored Enlil’s temple. Nippur was the seat of Sumer’s most important “academy” and in the lit. composed and redacted in this academy, Nippur and its leading deities, Enlil, his wife Ninlil, and his son Ninurta, played a large role. Excavators found some 30-40,000 tablets and fragments at Nippur, and about 4,000 of these are inscribed with Sumer. works.
Excavations were conducted in Nippur by American expeditions in 1890, 1893-1896, 1899-1900, 1948 and every other year thereafter through 1958. These excavations revealed parts of the Ekur “Mountain House,” the temple of Enlil and Sumer’s leading shrine, as well as the temple of Enlil’s consort, Ninlil. Also found were a large temple dedicated to the goddess Inanna, and a small temple dedicated to an unknown deity, as well as houses of the scribal quarter of the city.
H. W. Hilprecht, The Excavations in Assyria and Babylonia (1904), 289-577; C. S. Fisher, Excavations at Nippur (1907); V. C. Crawford, “Nippur the Holy City” Archaeology 12 (1959), 74-83.