Sir Leonard Woolley and Ur of the Chaldees – By Harriet Crawford: The Bible and Interpretation – July 2015
The most prominent feature of the site of Ur in 1922 was the high mound which covered the remains of the great ziggurat or staged tower dedicated to the Moon God Sin. It was here that much of Woolley’s work was to be focussed. He was able to trace the history of the ziggurat over more than five thousand years and to uncover evidence for the temples, defensive walls and other buildings which surrounded it.
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The ancient Mesoptamian city of Ur was a Sumerian city state which flourished as a centre of trade and civilisation between 2800-2000 BCE. However, in the recent past it suffered from the disastrous Gulf war and from neglect. It still remains a potent symbol for people of all faiths and will have an important role to play in the future.
This account of Ur’s past looks at both the ancient city and its evolution over centuries, and its archaeological interpretation in more recent times. From the 19th century explorers and their identification of the site of Mukayyar as the Biblical city of Ur, the study proceeds to look in detail at the archaeologist Leonard Woolley and his key discoveries during the 1920s and 30s. Using the findings as a framework and utilising the latest evidence from environmental, historical and archaeological studies, the volume explores the site’s past in chronological order from the Ubaid period in the 5th millennium to the death of Alexander. It looks in detail at the architectural remains: the sacred buildings, royal graves and also the private housing which provides a unique record of life 4000 years ago. The volume also describes the part played by Ur in the Gulf war and discusses the problems raised for archaeologists in the war’s aftermath.
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Harriet Crawford is Senior Fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, and Reader Emerita at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK. Her published works include Sumer and the Sumerians (2004), Dilmun and its Gulf Neighbours (1998) and The Sumerian World (2012). She has excavated in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria.