A brick from the Tower of Babel, c. 604-562 BC
In Neo Babylonian, 7 lines in cuneiform script blindprinted into the wet clay, within a lined rectangle, prior to baking. Part of the inscription says:
"Nebudchadnezzar, King of Babylon, Guardian of the Temples Esagila and Ezida, Firstborn Son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon."
Bricks with this inscription were found during the excavation of the great Ziggurat (aka Tower of Babel). It stands just north of Esagila, the temple of Marduk, also mentioned in the inscription. The ziggurat in Babylon was originally built around the time of Hammurabi c. 1792-1750 BC. The restoration and enlargement began under Nabopolassar, and was finished after 43 years of work under Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BC. It has been calculated that at least 17 million bricks had to be made and fired. Babylon, along with the ziggurat was captured by Kyros in 538 BC, Dareios I in 519 BC, Xerxes ca. 483 BC, and entirely destroyed by Alexander I the Great in 331 BC.
It is this tall stepped temple tower which is referred to in Genesis 11:1-9, and became known as “The Tower of Babel.” The bricks are specifically mentioned in Genesis 11:3: “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire. - For stone they used bricks and for mortar they used bitumen.” The black bitumen is still visible on the back of the present baked brick.
Nebuchadnezzar II was the founder of the New Babylonian Empire. He captured Jerusalem in 596 and 586 BC, burnt down the temple and all of Jerusalem, carried its treasures off to Babylon, and took the Jews into captivity (2 kings 24-25). Nebuchadnezzar II is the king who is named more than 90 times in the Old Testament. Daniel 1-4 is almost entirely devoted to the description of his greatness and reign, his rise and fall, and submission to God.