Archaeologists have discovered an amazing deal of proof about the ancient Mesopotamian culture since the 19th century. George Smith announced that he found the remainings of the world’s oldest literary work during the Society of Biblical Archaeology meeting in 1872. These were clay tablets found in Nineveh, and they were all about the Epic of Gilgamesh.
This discovery became a huge sensation, and there was great interest in the Mesopotamian era. Every year more and more reputable United States, German, British and French universities, and museums funded archaeological expeditions in the areas where Babylonian, Assyrian, and Sumerian civilizations started and developed. The most popular one among these regions was Tell al Muqayyar, which we all know as Ur today.
British diplomat J. E. Taylor was already in the area in 1853 and working on some basic excavations. However, it took about 70 years for a full excavation of the ancient city. British Museum and Penn Museum funded a joint excavation plan and program, and this effort was led by Leonard Woolley.
Just like many ancient civilizations, Sumerians also prepared mighty graves for their rulers, and these were called death pits. There were found 16 large tombs.
Leonard Woolley worked in the area between 1922 and 1934 and brought the ancient Sumerian city of Ur to light. This excavation helped us to understand the daily life in the area, which dates to 4.500 BC as a small settlement area next to River Euphrates in Mesopotamia. After 2.000 years from its first settlement, the city became the capital of Sumer with its full richness.
1840 graves were discovered in the city. The interesting thing about the Sumerians’ burial traditions is that the kings and the queens used to be buried together with their servants and courtiers. The tomb of Queen Shub-ad is one of the popular ones, and she was buried with her maiden holding her harp and 74 more servants.
These tombs helped us a lot to understand the rituals of one of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. The skill and artistry level of the objects buried with the rulers are astonishing. This discovery changed the perception of Mesopotamia and its culture. Woolley completed this duty at Ur in 1934, and he devoted his life to Ur. He published many studies and books about his memories, experiences, and things that he learned during the excavations.