How to Build a Ziggurat Out of Clay


Different groups throughout ancient Mesopotamia built tall structures known as ziggurats for temples to their gods. Ziggurats are recognizable by their staggered terrace composition with long-reaching ramps and a small temple building at the very top. You can make your own miniature ziggurat using modeling clay, similar to the mud bricks used to make the original ziggurats. Be prepared to use your hands to mold the ziggurat's different geometric components into shape, and then finish the structure with clay modeling tools including a sponge, craft knife and stylus.

Things You'll Need

  • Craft knife
  • Modeling clay
  • Stylus
  • Sponge
  • Baking sheet
  • Oven
  • Use the craft knife to cut the clay into smaller workable pieces. Knead your modeling clay to soften it. Work the clay with your hands, pulling and compressing it until the clay feels warm and pliable.

  • Use the clay to make a large rectangular base platform, using your hands to shape it. Then make a second platform that is three-fourths as long and wide as the base platform, and only a quarter of its height. Center it on top of the first platform. Make a third platform that is half as long and wide as the second platform and a quarter of its height. Place it in the middle of the second platform. Use your fingers to pull the clay up over the spaces where all of the platforms meet, to make them hold together.

  • Mold a square building from the clay and place it in the middle of the third platform. This is the temple. Make a section of clay that is half as long and tall as the base platform, then set it in front of the base, in the middle of the long side. Make a building that is similar to the temple. Place it on top of the adjacent base section. Make a third small building and place it on top of the base platform, adjacent to the second tier. Use your fingers to pull the clay over the spaces where the different parts meet.

  • Mold ramps that reach up to the building on top of the adjacent base section. One ramp should run along the side of the base, going from left to right. The second ramp should run perpendicularly inward to the ziggurat's center. You'll have to mold the ramps so that they fit around the adjacent base section. Make two smaller sets of ramps to connect the second and third platforms and the third platform to the temple. These should be in line with the perpendicular ramp.

  • Trim away any excess lumps or unwanted clay using the craft knife. Use the stylus to etch in details to the ziggurat. Wet the sponge and squeeze out the excess water. Drag the sponge over the the walls and roofs of the ziggurat to smooth out all of the surfaces .

  • Place your finished ziggurat on the baking sheet. Follow the instructions on the modeling clay's package to bake the clay into a hardened form.

Tips & Warnings

  • To build a more stylized structure, use a computer search engine to locate images of actual and imagined ziggurats. These buildings can be plain or highly decorated.


  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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