Ur was a city in ancient Sumeria. Archaeologists have found remains there that date back as far as the Ubaid period. This level of the city was covered over by soil that clearly represents a flood and some archaeologists claim that this flood, which buried Ur, was the inspiration for the biblical story of the flood.
Eventually Ur came under the control of Semitic speaking people call the Akkadians, who were led by their King Sargon the Great. Their language (Akkadian) is the language that was spoken by the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians and which eventually became the diplomatic language of the ancient Near East.
After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, the so called Third Dynasty of Ur came into power under the kings Ur-Nammu and his successor Shulgi. Ur-Nammu was profiled several years ago in this blog (the post included some photos of some art from this king's reign). Ur-Nammu's law code is well known and is often translated by students learning Akkadian (been there, done that!).
Excavations in the early 1900's were conducted by Leonard Woolley and Max Mallowan. Their finds at Ur led to a great deal of interest from tourists and Mallowan married one of the tourists, a well-known mystery writer named Agatha Christie.
Woolley's excavations were funded by the British Museum and the Penn Museum in Philadelphia and many of the objects from their excavations found their way to London and Philadelphia. The photos I have included are of objects that I have posted before, but on my recent trip to Philadelphia, I took some new photos of the objects in their brand new display cases (or at least new since I last visited the museum), so I have decided to show these wonderful works of art again.
The bull's heads, one made of gold with inlaid eyes and the other made of wood covered in gold leaf and having a lapis lazuli beard, were used as decorations on harps. The significance of the "Ram in the Thicket" is unclear to me. The museum has some photos of the ram as it was originally found, virtually completely crushed by the weight of the dirt used to cover the fabulous burial it was included in. It took endless, painstaking work for conservators to restore the piece to its current form.
6 days ago