Revisiting the City of Ur

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor
of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Michael Taylor, a former platoon leader from the 1-160th Infantry of the California National Guard, served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He is currently a graduate student in history at the University of California, Berkeley. While serving in Iraq, Taylor visited the ziggurat at Ur.

The Tower of Babel probably was something similar to the ziggurat at Ur.

Taylor has written an article about his visit to the ancient city of Ur. The article was published in the Archaeology Magazine. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Ur was one of a series of Sumerian city-states that arose in Mesopotamia roughly 5,000 years ago, fueled by agricultural surpluses and dominated by an elite that maintained the complex irrigation systems upon which the city’s wealth depended. Around 2250 B.C., Sargon the Great made Ur part of his Akkadian empire, one of the world’s first centralized states. Akkadian, a Semitic language distantly related to the modern Arabic now spoken there, gradually replaced Sumerian as Ur’s language. Little of the architecture visible today dates to Ur’s early history, though artifacts from early tombs can be viewed in the museums of London, Philadelphia, and Baghdad. The city’s greatest and most enduring monuments were constructed in the period that followed the collapse of the Akkadian dynasty around 2050 B.C.

In 2047 B.C., Ur became the capital of its own centralized state, ruled by what historians call the Ur III dynasty. Its new king, Ur-Nammu, sought to create monuments to make the city equal to that status, and began construction of the ziggurat temple in honor of the city’s patron deity, Nannar, god of the moon. But Ur-Nammu died before his greatest work could be finished, and the project was completed by his son, Shulgi.

The brickwork of the ziggurat attests to the kings’ desire to create a lasting monument to their empire. The bitumen mortar—one of the first uses of southern Iraq’s vast oil fields—is still visible between the burnt bricks. The sticky black substance, today a source of the region’s instability and violence, once literally bound this civilization together. The use of bitumen as mortar and pavement has helped waterproof the otherwise fragile Sumerian mud-bricks, ensuring that the structures endured for millennia.

The article includes several picture of the ziggurat at Ur. Read the article by clicking here.

NOTE: For other articles on archaeology, archaeological discoveries, and how they relate to the Bible, read my post Can Archaeology Prove the Bible?.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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