Major Archaeological Discovery Biblical Ur

About the major archaeological discovery of Ur in Iraq by Charles Wooley which gave the world more insight into Sumerian culture.

Discovery: UR

Year: 1922

Location: 9 mi. west of Nasiriya, Iraq, on the river Euphrates, 200 mi. from the Persian Gulf

Discoverer: Charles Leonard Woolley

Findings: The world's earliest known dig was made at Ur by Nabonidus, a 6th-century B.C. king of Babylonia. An avid collector of old inscriptions, with a recorded passion for restoration, he rebuilt the Mesopotamian city's ruined ziggurat, or tower.

Leonard Woolley originally trained for the ministry, but was diverted into archaeology by Dr. W. A. Spooner, of "spoonerism" fame. After W.W. I, Woolley began explorations in the Euphrates-Tigris delta, hoping to make an important find of a biblical nature. His success was almost immediate. Working with the consummate skill and patience for which he became noted, Woolley discovered Sumerian temple ruins dating back to 2600 B.C. Encouraged, he selected a new site at the great mound of Tell el-Muqayyar, a 60-ft.-high ziggurat known to conceal Ur of the Chaldees because of prior excavations done in 1854 by J. E. Taylor, the British consul at Basra. In 1929 Woolley stirred world-wide interest with a melodramatic telegram, sent to London: WE HAVE FOUND THE FLOOD!

Deep down in the 40-ft. shaft sunk into the mound, Woolley had discovered a stratified layer of river clay almost 10 ft. thick. The deposit, he reasoned, could have come only from a flood of immense dimensions, a disaster of such magnitude that it had without doubt given substance to the Genesis legend of Noah and the Ark.

The discovery, revealing as it was, was not Woolley's greatest triumph at Ur. In 1926, excavating in the area known to be the royal cemetery, Woolley uncovered Ur's most shocking secret: gruesome proof that the priests of the 40th-century B.C. kingdom had practiced mass murder and human sacrifice. Laid out in precise rows, the remains of both royalty and commoner lay where the bodies had fallen after being struck down from behind, killed so that they might accompany their dead ruler into the next world.

The discoveries at Ur established the ancient Sumerians, previously known only as myth or legend, as historical reality, the ancestors of a Babylonia yet to be. Woolley's lucid accounts of his Ur excavations, published between 1928 and 1938, were eagerly read by the general public.

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