Ur visit and photos - Page 1

Tell el-Muqayyar (Ur)
Visited 13.40-17.00, 5 June 2008; 14.00-15.30, 6 June 2008

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Tell el-Muqayyar (Ur)
Visited 13.40-17.00, 5 June 2008; 14.00-15.30, 6 June 2008

J. E. Taylor investigated the ziggurat in 1854; H. R. Hall undertook some excavations in 1918-19; and C. L. Woolley directed the Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum of Pennsylvania from 1922 to 1934.

C. L. Woolley et al., Ur Excavations I-X (London & Philadelphia, PA 1927-76); Ur Excavations Texts I-IX (London and Philadelphia, PA 1928-1976); J. Oates, “Ur and Eridu: The Prehistory”, Iraq 22 (1960), pp. 32-50; C. L. Woolley and P. R .S. Moorey, Ur of the Chaldees (London 1982).

Ur was occupied from the Ubaid period (c. 4500 BC) to the end of the fourth century BC. A large cemetery dating from the Uruk to Early Dynastic periods was partly excavated and included the famous “Royal Graves” (c. 2500 BC) and the Third Dynasty of Ur royal tombs (c. 2100 BC). Many of the excavated public buildings date to the period of the Third Dynasty of Ur when the city was the centre of a major kingdom dominating southern Mesopotamia. Private housing of the Old Babylonian period (c. 2000-1600 BC) was revealed, as were monumental buildings of the Kassite period (c. 1500-1200 BC). The city was the focus of construction and restoration by Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus during the sixth century BC.

The inspection began at the ziggurat, which is marked on the south-eastern façade with bullet, shell and shrapnel holes; this damage appears to have occurred in 1991.1 From the ziggurat the inspection moved to the following areas of the site.

Temple of E-Dublal-mah
This building has suffered considerably from erosion of the brickwork, especially at the corners of the building. A protective layer of concrete placed over the top of the walls may have exacerbated problems because of its weight and by directing rainwater against the brickwork beneath, leading to undercutting. The result is the collapse of certain sections of brickwork which has left a gaping hole in the northwest corner. Four large bomb craters close to the temple, which were observed in 1992, have since been filled in.2

Palace of E-Hursag
The walls were restored in 1961 using ancient and modern bricks. There have been some areas of collapse, especially in the north-west area of the building.

Third Dynasty of Ur Mausolea
A line of concertina razor wire limits access to the area of the tombs, although this has been breached in places. There is some collapse and erosion of walls, including damage caused by bird droppings. The wooden props supporting the arches in the tomb of Shulgi appeared to be in a good condition with no evidence of termite activity. Access to this tomb is blocked by razor wire laid on the modern steps leading down to the ancient stairs. Part of the roof of the Amar-Suen tomb had collapsed approximately thirty years ago. The roof of another tomb has also collapsed in places, resulting in two significant holes which are in urgent need of specialist conservation/restoration work.

Southern end of the site
Beside an area of houses reconstructed in 1999 in preparation for a planned visit by Pope John Paul II, who wished to worship in the supposed birthplace of Abraham,3 are the remains of brick houses of the Isin-Larsa period which have suffered heavily from erosion. The relationship of the reconstructed houses to the original plan of the excavated buildings should be a subject for study. A crater north-east of the Old Babylonian houses was noted – this was caused by a rocket in February 2008. It was reported by the site guard that three rockets landed at Ur in April 2008; of these, one fell near the guard’s house and another some 23 m south-east of the ziggurat.

“Flood Pit”
Some natural collapse and erosion.

Giparu
A small section of the building has been reconstructed using ancient bricks to form the skin of casemate walls filled with ancient and modern bricks and concrete. Several holes were noted in the brick skin.

North-east of the main site
The Visitor Control Centre to Tallil Airbase remains in position on the area known as Diqdiqqa (an ancient suburb of Ur).4 A modern gateway (large arch) has been constructed at the site entrance; it lies approximately 100 m from the intersection with the main road towards Tallil Airbase.
Until recently there was unrestricted access to the archaeological site of Ur for coalition troops based at Tallil, and it is suspected that large numbers of troops wandering around the site at will did some damage. Now, however, the site is out of bounds and special permission is needed to visit it.

1. See BM report 2007
2. In 1991 a photograph was released by the United States Department of Defense showing two Iraqi MiG-21 fighter planes positioned in front of the Ur Ziggurat. It has been suggested that the bomb craters resulted from the targeting of these planes by coalition forces. However, the position of the craters does not correspond with the alleged location of the planes, raising the possibility that something other than the planes was being targeted.
3. The visit was cancelled due to the worsening political situation (sanctions and an air exclusion zone had been in place since 1990).
4. See BM report 2007

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