The Royal Tombs of Ur
History of Art 101 Recitation Two: Week of September 16

The Ancient Near East and the City of Ur

Sir Leonard Woolley directed archaeological excavations at Ur (in modern day Iraq) between 1922 and 1934. Woolley's widely read Ur of the Chaldees: A record of seven years of excavation, published in 1929 and revisited in 1954, described his findings in an accessible and informative manner embraced by both specialists as well as lay-persons. Woolley offered interesting if not always accurate interpretations of the physical evidence. Woolley, the son of a clergyman, considered following in his father's footsteps at a young age. The archaeologist often turned to the Bible for comparisons and analogies to his site, not an uncommon practice for many learned people of Woolley's day. Although current scholarship has yet to prove or disprove whether Tell el-Mukayyar (the current Iraqi name for Woolley's site) is or is not the famed birthplace of Abraham the first Jew, Woolley argued strongly for the connection of his archaeological find to the location discussed in chapter 14 of Genesis 11:29-32. (Moorey, P.R.S. Ur of the Chaldees: A Revised and Updated Edition of Sir Leonard Woolley's Excavations at Ur. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1982.)

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the University of Pennsylvania began paying for expeditions to Ur. No published material appeared until after World War II. In 1922 Dr. G.B. Gordon, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum approached the British Museum and together the two institutions funded a joint expedition lasting 12 seasons under the direction of Sir Leonard Woolley.

Click on the city of Ur for information about Sumerian civilization, burial practices, and the University's role in the excavation and anaylsis of this ancient Near eastern capital city.