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The Tower of Babel, the building that wanted to reach Heaven

In the Genesis, the first book of the Bible, numerous captivating stories unfold. Among them is the tale of the Great Flood and Noah, who safeguarded humanity from extinction. Another notable narrative recounts how humans endeavored to erect a tower that would reach the heavens, famously known as the "Tower of Babel."

The biblical story of the Tower of Babel

“Great Tower of Babel”, 1563, Pieter Bruegel the Elder
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“Great Tower of Babel”, 1563, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

It is important to note that the Bible's account of one of perhaps the best-known artefacts in human history is extremely sparse . It occupies a few lines of chapter 11 which begins like this

The whole earth had the same language and used the same words

In those times the men, who were the descendants of Noah, settled in the "region of Shinar", that is, in Mesopotamia. Here decided to build a tower

whose peak penetrates the sky

God observed what men were doing and was not happy with it: he did not want them to settle in just one place. So he said

let's go down and confuse their language there, so that they no longer understand each other

Men then dispersed throughout the Earth and the city they had built, and its tower was called "Babel" because this term in Hebrew means "confusion". Since then, therefore, the men of the earth have no longer had any way of understanding each other, since each nation speaks a different language.

What's true

The Tower of Babel: Ziqqurat
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The Tower of Babel: Ziqqurat

The Bible is a religious and symbolic narrative, largely allegorical, yet it often contains elements with historical foundations. Just as many scholars have embarked on quests to locate Noah's Ark, others have sought to identify the Tower of Babel. The Etemenanki ziggurat, found in Iraq, is the most commonly attributed candidate.

This grand stepped pyramid was the largest and most significant building in Babylon, although not all scholars agree on its identification as the Tower of Babel. Nevertheless, most acknowledge that the biblical account describes an imposing construction. Moreover, the ancient world abounds with pyramids that have endured through the centuries, standing as testaments to their majesty.

Additionally, references to this tower appear in other sources, such as the Sibylline Books of Rome, sacred texts that encompassed the wisdom of antiquity. This lends credence to the notion that we are not dealing with a mere construction but rather a fragmented memory of events from epochs far removed from those who recount the tale.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula

The Tower of Babel: Cholula
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The Tower of Babel: Cholula

Although it may seem illogical to seek the Tower of Babel anywhere other than where the Bible places it—between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers—there is a pyramid whose dimensions surpass the others and could evoke the ambitious construction of mankind. However, this pyramid is situated on the opposite side of the world, in Mexico. It is the Great Pyramid of Cholula.

Interestingly, this pyramid is far less renowned than the Aztec or Egyptian pyramids, yet it surpasses them all in grandeur. Standing at 64 meters tall, it occupies a surface area four times larger than the famous Pyramid of Cheops. Today, it resembles a grass-covered hill, bearing the pre-Columbian name Tlachihualtepetl, meaning "mountain made by man," which aptly reflects its appearance.

Atop this structure, the Sun God was worshipped. According to a 16th-century manuscript penned by a missionary who ventured to colonize the New World, we learn of the pyramid's construction as recounted by local natives. The missionary collected the testimony of an elderly Cholula resident over 100 years old, who narrated that in ancient times, men "of disproportionate stature" endeavored to journey east and west to understand the movements of the sun.

However, their path was obstructed by the sea. Upon returning to Cholula, disheartened by their failure to grasp the Sun's essence, they constructed the pyramid. In response, the "inhabitants of heaven," angered by such audacity, scattered these men "to all corners of the Earth."

Similar tales in distant places

The Tower of Babel: Atlantis
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The Tower of Babel: Atlantis

The story of the ancient inhabitant of Cholula bears a striking resemblance to the biblical narrative of the Tower of Babel. Once again, as seen with the tale of the Great Flood, pre-Columbian legends echo a narrative that was developed on the opposite side of the globe—west and east, where the sun sets and rises.

Perhaps, as Ignatius Donnelly hypothesized, we are confronted once again with a shared memory of an event that occurred elsewhere. This "elsewhere" could be Atlantis, a civilization believed to have been far more advanced than those that succeeded it. The feats achieved by the Atlanteans became legendary and fantastical simply because subsequent civilizations lacked the knowledge to replicate them.

The remnants of this lost population were sought in subsequent constructions, erected by those who remembered their greatness despite being unable to match it. In Atlantis, there was unity of language; however, with the destruction of the island, that unity was lost.

Today, we still strive to recreate that ancient unity, endeavoring to overcome not only linguistic but also cultural and societal differences that often separate us more profoundly than physical borders do.

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