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The History of Ancient Sumeria (Sumer) including its cities, kings, religions culture and contributions or civilization

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"Harpist from Ur"

by: Liliana Osses Adams

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Map

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Ziggurat

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Ziggurat

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Sumeria, The City of Ur

 

 

For the gods have abandoned us

like migrating birds they have gone

Ur is destroyed, bitter is its lament

The country's blood now fills its holes like hot bronze in a mould

Bodies dissolve like fat in the sun. Our temple is destroyed

Smoke lies on our city like a shroud.

blood flows as the river does

the lamenting of men and women

sadness abounds

Ur is no more

 

Ur (biblical, Ur of the Chaldees), ancient city of Mesopotamia. Its ruins are approximately midway between the modern city of Baghdd, Iraq, and the head of the Persian Gulf, south of the Euphrates River, on the edge of the Al ajarah Desert. The site of Ur is known today as Tall al Muqayyar, Iraq. In antiquity the Euphrates River flowed near the city walls. Controlling this outlet to the sea, Ur was favorably located for the development of commerce and for attaining political dominance.

Ur was the principal center of worship of the Sumerian moon god Nanna and of his Babylonian equivalent Sin. The massive ziggurat of this deity, one of the best preserved in Iraq, stands about 21 m (about 70 ft) above the desert. The biblical name, Ur of the Chaldees, refers to the Chaldeans, who settled in the area about 900 BC. The Book of Genesis (see 11:27-32) describes Ur as the starting point of the migration westward to Palestine of the family of Abraham about 1900 BC.

Ur was one of the first village settlements founded (circa 4000 BC) by the so-called Ubaidian inhabitants of Sumer. Before 2800 BC, Ur became one of the most prosperous Sumerian city-states. According to ancient records, Ur had three dynasties of rulers who, at various times, extended their control over all of Sumer. The founder of the 1st Dynasty of Ur was the conqueror and temple builder Mesanepada (reigned about 2670 BC), the earliest Mesopotamian ruler described in extant contemporary documents. His son Aanepadda (reigned about 2650 BC) built the temple of the goddess Ninhursag, which was excavated in modern times at Tell al-Obeid, about 8 km (about 5 mi) northeast of the site of Ur. Of the 2nd Dynasty of Ur little is known.

Ur-Nammu (reigned 2113-2095 BC), the first king of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, who revived the empire of Sumer and Akkad, won control of the outlet to the sea about 2100 BC and made Ur the wealthiest city in Mesopotamia. His reign marked the beginning of the so-called renaissance of Sumerian art and literature at Ur. Ur-Nammu and his son and successor Shulgi (reigned 2095-2047 BC) built the ziggurat of Nanna (about 2100 BC) and magnificent temples at Ur and in other Mesopotamian cities. The descendants of Ur-Nammu continued in power for more than a century, or until shortly before 2000 BC, when the Elamites captured Ibbi-Sin (reigned 2029-2004 BC), king of Ur, and destroyed the city.

Rebuilt shortly thereafter, Ur became part of the kingdom of Isin, later of the kingdom of Larsa, and finally was incorporated into Babylonia. During the period when Babylonia was ruled by the Kassites, Ur remained an important religious center. It was a provincial capital with hereditary governors during the period of Assyrian rule in Babylonia.

After the Chaldean dynasty was established in Babylonia, King Nebuchadnezzar II initiated a new period of building activity at Ur. The last Babylonian king, Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 BC), who appointed his eldest daughter high priestess at Ur, embellished the temples and entirely remodeled the ziggurat of Nanna, making it rival even the temple of Marduk at Babylon. After Babylonia came under the control of Persia, Ur began to decline. By the 4th century BC, the city was practically forgotten, possibly as a result of a shift in the course of the Euphrates River.

The ruins of Ur were found and first excavated (1854-55) by the British consul J. E. Taylor, who partly uncovered the ziggurat of Nanna. The British Museum commenced (1918-19) excavations here and at neighboring Tell al-Obeid under the direction of the British archaeologists Reginald C. Thompson and H. R. H. Hall. These excavations were continued from 1922 to 1934 by a joint expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley.

In addition to excavating the ziggurat completely, the expedition unearthed the entire temple area at Ur and parts of the residential and commercial quarters of the city. The most spectacular discovery was that of the Royal Cemetery, dating from about 2600BC and containing art treasures of gold, silver, bronze, and precious stones. The findings left little doubt that the deaths of the king and queen of Ur were followed by the voluntary death of their courtiers and personal attendants and of the court soldiers and musicians. Within the city itself were discovered thousands of cuneiform tablets comprising administrative and literary documents dating from about 2700 to the 4th century BC. The deepest levels of the city contained traces of a flood, alleged to be the deluge of Sumerian, Babylonian, and Hebrew legend. All scientific evidence, however, indicates that it was merely a local flood.

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