Ur (1928-30)

Reconstruction of the burial shaft, showing the queen's retinue and the ox drivers (1928)

Familiar from the Old Testament as 'Ur of the Chaldees' (Genesis 11:29-32), Abraham's place of origin, the archaeological remains of Ur were not located until the nineteenth century. In 1849 the English geologist William Kennet Loftus saw the ruins known as Tell el-Muqqayar (the 'pitch-built hill') and wrote an enthusiastic account of the possibilites they might present. However, the main excavations at Ur were not undertaken until 1922-34 when Leonard Woolley led a joint expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum, Pennsylvania. The incredible finds they made, as well as the insight gained by study of the thousands of clay tablets, have added greatly to our knowledge of ancient oriental art and culture.

Max Mallowan, as Woolley's archaeological assistant, made a considerable contribution. He worked there for six years, until he fell in love with a woman visiting the dig, married her and left the Ur expedition in order to work on sites where he and his new wife could be together.

Illustration: Reconstruction of a burial shaft at Ur, showing the queen's retinue and the ox drivers (A. Forestier, 1928)