The ancient biblical city in Mesopotamia
, the ruins of Ur are located halfway between modern day Baghdad
and the head of the Persian Gulf
. The site is known today as Tall al Muqayyar, Iraq
. In the Bible
the city is known as Ur of the Chaldees
, which refers to the Chaldean people, who settled to area surrounding the city c. 900 B.C.E. In ancient times, the great Euphrates River
flowed just outside its walls.
For the gods have abandoned us
like migrating birds they have gone
blood flows as the river does
the lamenting of men and women
Ur is no more2
Prior to 2800 B.C.E., Ur was the most properous city in Sumer. It was first settled by the "Ubaidian" inhabitants c. 4,000 B.C.E. Ancient records indicate that the city had three dynasties of rulers who stretched their influence throughout Sumer. The first ruler of the first dynasty was Mesnanepada (c. 2670 B.C.E). His son, Aanepadda (c. 2650 B.C.E.) built a temple to the goddess Ninhursag, which was discovered at Tell al-Obeid. Besides this information about the first dynasty, little is known, and almost no information about the second dynasty has been recovered.
The first ruler of the third dynasty was Ur-Nammu (c. 2113-2095 B.C.E.) who strengthened the empire again. His reign began a Golden Age in Sumerian culture at Ur. One of the greatest examples of the ancient ziggurat is preserved here as a temple to Nanna, the Sumerian moon god. It is about 70 feet (21 meters) high. It was built by Ur-Nammu and his son Shulgi (c. 2095-2047 B.C.E.). They built other temples at Ur and elsewhere throughout Mesopotamia. The decendants of this line were in power for over 100 years (until c. 2000 B.C.E.), when the Elamites captured Ibbi-Sin (ruler c. 2029-2004 B.C.E) and destroyed Ur.
The city was rebuilt and assimilated into the kingdom of Isin and then the kingdom of Larsa, and eventually into Babylon. During the rule of the Kassites, it was a vital religious center. When the Assyrians ruled, it was a provincial capital. Once the Chaldean dynasty existed, King Nebuchadnezzar II started a new building projects at the city. Nabonidus (c. 556-539 B.C.E.), the last Babylonian king, completely remodeled the ziggurat to Nanna.
Once Persian rule was established at Ur, it began its final decline. The course of the Euphrates River had shifted. It was forgotten by the 4th century B.C.E.
The remains of Ur were discovered by J.E. Taylor in 1854, who came across part of the ziggurat to Nanna. British archaeologists Reginald C. Thompson and H.R.H. Hall from the British Museum restarted excavations at the site in 1918. From 1922-1934 another team from the British Museum and the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania continued to work at the ruins. The ziggurat was completely uncovered as well as the area surrounding it and some of the other parts of the city.
1Ur is described in Genesis 11 28-32.