Ishtar Gate, as created by Nebuchadnezzar II around 600BC was the northern gate to the city of Babylon, located at the end of a long processional way. Dedicated to the Babylonina goddess Ishtar, the gate also features prominent repeated depictions of Adad and Marduk. Nabuchadnezzar's cuneiform dedication appears on the side of the gate. Unusually, the iconic Babylonian Lions are absent from the gate.
The restored version at Berlin's Pergamon Museum only represents the front half. An identical section stood behind this facade, with wings that integrated into the city walls. Behind the gate stood the long staircase to the Babylonian Ziggurat, referred to in the Bible as the Tower of Babel.
The polychrome relief tiles that form the only true remains of the Ishtar gate from an excavation completed in the 1930s by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey. The tiles were completely shattered, requiring around two years to clean, preserve and reassemble. The more vivid blue tiles surrounding the figure were recreated using the original glazing process to complete the lower blue tiled section of the processional way in Berlin's Pergamon Museum.
Definitely best viewed on black
There are lots of distorted and partial photos of the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum and it's easy to understand why. The room in which the Ishtar Gate stands today is usually crowded. However consider the 240cm high opening in the grey panel at the centre to appreciate the gate's 30 metre span and 14 metre height. The crowd is suitably dwarfed, ensuring a good view for all, but the challenge of photographing the gate is complicated by the shallowness of the room, you just can't go back far enough to get the entire gate framed like this. I managed to photograph the gate in a single shot with a 10mm wideangle lens, but not without noteable distortion... The harsh daylight that comes in through the giant skylight over the gate does not help rendering the vivid colour either.
In the end I decided to try with three individual photographs (one of each tower and one of the gate itself, and each bracketed) taken with a bit of patience to minimize the number of people in shot. I then resorted to Photoshop to join the three HDR photos, remove the people and replace the grey floor. I completed the process with some masked graduated blue and yellow filters to eliminate the light spill from the ceiling. So, this is a reconstruction of a reconstruction, as it were...
Thanks to Google for generating so much traffic to this photo!
* #274 on Flickr's Explore.
* This photo appears here