one of the most important cities of ancient Sumeria and Mesopotamia, both in its own time and to modern archaeologists and historians. Ur (modern Tell al-Muqayyar) was originally located on the Euphrates River in what is now southeastern Iraq, quite close to the shores of the Persian Gulf. (Later, however, both the river and gulf moved away from the city.) Inhabited at least by 4500 b.c., in the Ubaidian period, Ur became one of the twelve or so major Sumerian cities that emerged in the late fourth and early third millennia b.c. The city's main rise to prominence began in about 2750 b.c., and two of its early kings, Mesannepadda and his son Aannepadda, initiated an expansionist policy. Ur defeated Lagash and Kish and eventually came to control large sections of southern Mesopotamia. The city acquired great wealth, not only through conquest but also through trade. Its location on the Persian Gulf stimulated its traders to venture out into the Indian Ocean sphere; and the well-to-do classes at Ur enjoyed an influx of foreign luxury goods.
   Ur's initial period of power and prosperity ended when the imperialist Sargon of Akkad (reigned ca. 2340-2284 b.c.) created the first Mesopotamian empire and absorbed the Sumerian cities, including Ur. Little is known about Ur during the century or so it owed allegiance to the Akkadians. After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, however, the city's second and most notable and splendid period began with the rule of Ur-Nammu (reigned ca. 2113-2094 b.c.). He and his immediate successors (Shulgi, Amar-Sin, Shu-Sin, and Ibbi-Sin) created and administered the second Mesopotamian empire, the so-called Third Dynasty of Ur (or Ur-III). Like the Akkadian realm that preceded it, Ur-III's existence was spectacular but relatively brief. Pressure from the Amorites in the northwest and the Elamites in the northeast mounted, and in the last years of the third millennium B.c. the Elamites sacked Ur. This major event was commemorated soon afterward in a dirge known as the Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur. (Forexcerptsfromthe work, see Ningal and Third Dynasty of Ur.)
   In the years that followed, Ur remained populated but its people no longer aspired to acquire political power and territory. During the Old Babylonian period, spanning the first few centuries of the second millennium B.c., the city was largely a quiet center of learning and religious observance. Religious pilgrims from across Mesopotamia periodically visited the local temple of Ur's patron deity, Nanna (or Sin), the moon god. And Babylonia's Kas-site and Neo-Babylonian rulers maintained this and other temples in Ur to curry favor with both their subjects and the gods. Steadily, however, the city declined. In large part this was due to factors beyond human control. Over time the coast of the Persian Gulf receded away from Ur toward the southeast; also, the Euphrates changed course, moving northward. (Today, the river lies 9 miles [14.5 km] north of the city.) As a result, Ur's agricultural base and trade network became increasingly difficult to maintain. By about 450 B.c. the city was largely abandoned.
   As the succeeding ages passed, most of Ur was covered over by dirt and vegetation and became part of a large tell, although a few of the larger buildings remained visible above the surface. Major modern excavation of the ancient city began with the epic digs of charles Leonard Woolley, considered to be among the most important and revealing in Mesopotamia and indeed in the world. Between 1922 and 1934 Woolley led an expedition sponsored by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. The items uncovered in Ur during these years now rest in these institutions as well as in the Iraqi Museum.
   The crowning achievement of Woolley's expedition came early on, when he uncovered a series of what appear to be royal graves and tombs. In all, the burial sites of sixteen kings and queens of the third millennium b.c. came to light in the very same year (1922) that noted archaeologist Howard Carter excavated the tomb of Tutankhamun, or King Tut, in Egypt. Counting the graves of less prestigious people, Woolley and his associates brought to light an astounding 1,850 burial sites in Ur. In the tomb of the Sumerian warlord Meskalamdug, Woolley found that ruler's skeleton along with his golden helmet, featuring ear holes on the sides; a golden dagger; a lapis lazuli whetstone to sharpen the blade; a grooming kit containing golden tweezers; and the remains of several guards and nine women - possibly part of Meskalamdug's harem - who wore earrings in the shape of the crescent moon. On the tomb's ramp Woolley's team uncovered two four-wheeled wagons. Another tomb, that of Queen Puabi (or Shub-ad), yielded an elegant board game, a small harp covered in gold foil, and golden straw to allow the queen to sip drinks in the afterlife. In the largest of the tombs, dubbed the Great Death Pit, Woolley found the remains of six warriors; two chariot-wagons, each with three bodies, perhaps a groom and two drivers; and the bodies of thirty-eight serving maids with ribbons of silver and gold in their hair.
   The royal tombs and other grave sites were not the only treasures Woolley and his team unearthed at Ur. They also found what became known as the Royal Standard of Ur, consisting of panels of inlaid mosaics depicting a military victory and the celebration that followed it. Woolley also investigated the great ziggurat of Ur. The best-preserved ziggurat in Mesopotamia, portions of it had always remained above-ground. He found that the structure, dedicated to the god Nanna, was some 240 feet (73m) high and that it had been rebuilt twice in antiquity - once in the late third millennium b.c. and again in Neo-Babylonian times. In addition, Woolley found an 8-foot (2.4m) layer of mud and sand lodged between two layers of human habitation debris. This led him to believe that he had found evidence of Noah's flood, mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis. However, scholars now think that the mud layer Woolley found came from a more localized flood.
   Another important connection between Ur and the Bible was the fact that the patriarch and prophet Abraham was supposedly a native of that city. A passage from Genesis states:
   Terah took Abraham, his son, and Lot, the son of Haran, his grandson . . . and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans[anameusedto describe the Babylonians during the period when Genesis was written] to go into the land of Canaan. (Genesis 11.31)
   Yet many modern scholars are doubtful that Abraham hailed from Ur. They suggest that he came instead from Ura, a smaller town with a similar name in northern Mesopotamia.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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