Ur (city)

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Coordinates: 30 ° 57 ′ 44 ″  N , 46 ° 6 ′ 16 ″  E

Map: Iraq

Ur , today's Tell el-Muqejjir , is one of the oldest Sumerian city ​​foundations and an old center in Mesopotamia ( Mesopotamia , in today's Iraq ). A ziggurat of the moon god Nanna is one of their most important buildings.

The city's beginnings go back to approx. 4000 BC. BC back. Today it is an important archaeological excavation site. The city is located near the present-day city of Nasiriya .

According to the tradition of the Old Testament of the Bible , the patriarch Abraham comes from Ur ( Gen 11.28.31  EU ).

The archaeological sites of Ur, along with those of Uruk and Eridu and marshland areas in southern Iraq, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites .

The town

Through various excavations it is possible to get a pretty good picture of the appearance of the city, which was once by the sea and was an important port. In the north of the city is the district of the moon god Nanna, who was the main god of the city. Here is the ziggurat that was built by Ur-Nammu around 2200 BC. Has been built.

The so-called standard of Ur was found in one of the royal tombs of this city.

Around the ziggurat there are some other important structures. The palace called Echursanga dates back to the 3rd Dynasty of Ur and is the royal palace of Ur-Nammu and Šulgi . The Egipar is another sanctuary. It was dedicated to the Ningal and also dates to the 3rd Dynasty of Ur.

The oldest larger structures of Ur were excavated about 200 m south of the ziggurat. These are the royal tombs of Ur , which were built around 2600–2500 BC. And were part of a cemetery comprising approx. 2000 graves. Some of the royal tombs were found untouched (see: Puabi ) and contained rich gifts. The monumental tombs of the kings of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur were also found very close to this cemetery. In the south of the city, a large part of the residential area from this period could be excavated. The houses were mostly rather small and had an inner courtyard. There are several alleys and there is little evidence of town planning. After the 3rd dynasty of Ur, the city lost its importance.

The Nanna Shrine was renovated during the Kassite period (in the 14th century BC). During the Assyrian rule, further renovation work took place. The city experienced a last small boom in the Neo-Babylonian period . The Nanna district was greatly expanded and received a mighty wall. In the north of the city a large palace was built for Belschaltinanna , a daughter of King Nabonidus .


Ziggurat of Ur, known as Tell al-Muqayyar

In the middle of the 19th century, a well-preserved ziggurat , known as Tell al-Muqayyar - the “stepped hill” - stood on the site of the former city of Ur . This tower was a place of worship for the moon god Nanna. It was smaller than the Babylonian ziggurat. The footprint was 55 by 40 meters.

In 1854 a British caravan, led by the consul in Basra, came to Ur to look for treasures for the British Museum in London . John George Taylor had the stepped tower removed from above and finally found some clay cylinders with inscriptions , which, however, faded in view of important finds in northern Mesopotamia (e.g. in Nineveh ). So the British initially gave up their efforts. After that, local Arabs used the ziggurat bricks as building material.

Among the officers of the British troops marching towards Baghdad in World War I was Reginald Campbell Thompson , an assistant at the British Museum in peacetime. In response to his urgent report to London in view of the dilapidated building and the presumed ruins of the settlement, the clay cylinders, which have since been forgotten, were carefully examined.

Only now did it become clear that this had to be the biblical Ur and that the Babylonian ruler Nabonid used the ziggurat in the 6th century BC. Had renovated. Many other cuneiform texts confirmed that Ur was one of the most important cities of the Sumerians. Among the clay tablets found there were some that were used for teaching cuneiform script. Others suggest that the students had multiplication and division tables and calculated with square and cube roots. Many of the boards are business documents.

In 1922 an expedition led by the archaeologist Leonard Woolley came to Ur and began systematic excavations on Tell . Woolley dug here for twelve winter months (1922–1934). He also excavated the so-called King's Cemetery of Ur . However, he only found the tomb of Queen Puabi, who had been buried with 23 richly decorated servants, untouched. The queen had rich grave goods made of gold, lapis lazuli , agate and carnelian . King Mesilim of Kiš wore a paper-thin gold helmet and a gold dagger with a pommel made of a lapis lazuli. The most famous find of the excavations is a bull's head made of chased gold, decorated with blue lapis lazuli. He sat on a harp as an ornament.


Ubaid time

The oldest remains of the settlement in Ur date from the late Ubaid period . CL Woolley demarcates the settlement sequence for this period mainly by means of layers in the probe known as Pit F. The remains of a village that consisted of reed huts come from the "Ubaid I" phase he defined. Small finds include painted ceramics and stone artefacts, including obsidian tools, fragments of stone vessels and pearls, and tools made from baked clay. In addition, anthropomorphic terracotta figurines with characteristic reptile-like facial features came to light there.

These settlement layers were covered by 3.5 m thick alluvial layers. Woolley believed it was evidence of the biblical flood and connected it to the Gilgameš epic.

Numerous burials were uncovered in the alluvial layers, which the excavator divided into two groups (according to Woolley "Ubaid II" and "Ubaid III" phases). The dead from the older period lay on their backs in different orientations. Her arms were on her sides, her hands folded over her pelvis. The skeletons of the younger burials lay in the side stool position and were wrapped in reed mats.

Woolley found evidence of settlement from this period in other probes as well.

Uruk time

The transition from the Ubaid period to the Uruk period can be easily traced in the individual layers of section F south of the Ziqqurrat, based on the ceramic remains there. In the deepest layer was the typical Ubaid ceramic. Above this a layer extended in which both Ubaid and Uruk vessels occur. The next layer contained the Uruk pottery turned on the potter's wheel and the bell pots characteristic of that time .

Between 5.50 m and 9.50 m depth, some round kilns were uncovered in the probe, which indicate a pottery. One of them contained several bell pots in situ . Objects and installations that were used for the production of ceramics were also found: a pottery wheel and round basin for the processing of clay as well as production waste. In addition to bell pots, spout vessels and beakers came to light.

In the vicinity of the Ziqqurrat, mosaic pens came to light, with which monumental cult buildings of the Uruk period were decorated. They prove that public buildings also existed in Ur at that time.

Transition from the Uruk period to the early dynasty

The finds that Woolley dated to the Gamdat-Nasr period , but which, according to today's knowledge, are largely considered to be early dynastic, are limited to a few probes in Ur (pits W, X, Y and Z). A cemetery was cut into them, the 370 so-called Gamdat Nasr graves. The buried lay on their side, often holding a mug in their hand near their face. In addition to ceramics, stone vessels, a few copper bowls, silver earrings and other metal everyday objects were also found.

The eight Seal Impression Strata (SIS) go beyond the grave horizon. These strata consist of layers of rubble, characterized by archaic tablets, clay seals and ceramics. They date from the Early Dynastic Period I, which also contains the typical "solid-footed goblets", to the Early Dynastic Period III, which is best represented by the finds in the King's Cemetery.

Early Dynastic Period

King's Cemetery

The Royal Tombs of Ur discovered Woolley in 1922 while trying one of Nebuchadnezzar II. To capture Built temenos of the temple complex by search sections. The graves found in the southeast of the Temenos were found in the middle of a 9 m thick package of layers of rubble. They belonged to a cemetery, on which burials were carried out from the Akkad to Ur III period. Among the almost 2,000 so-called private graves, there were 16, which are known as royal graves.

The cylinder seals and the unrolled seals found in the cemetery show that the royal graves are connected to the 1st Dynasty of Ur, which is mentioned in the Sumerian royal list. Except for the grave of Princess Puabi (PG 800) they remain completely anonymous. For this reason and because of the problematic stratigraphic position of the graves in relation to one another, it is difficult to establish a chronological sequence for the graves. Hans J. Nissen tried to bring clarity to the matter by means of seal inscriptions and stylistic comparisons, while Susan Pollock used the ceramic series and the well-stratified findings for this. However, the results of the two investigations are not sufficient to work out an exact chronology of the tombs.

The royal tombs are allegiance burials in which the deceased member of the ruling family was buried together with numerous servants. They were created according to a similar basic scheme. The main body lay in a crypt at the bottom of a deep shaft that was accessible via a ramp. Some tombs consisted of several burial chambers. They were built of sandstone, burnt and air-dried mud bricks, and clay, plaster and bitumen were used as mortar. Both in the chambers and on the ramps were the remains of the royal suite, up to 70 individuals, mostly women. The graves were richly furnished with valuable gifts: vessels and weapons made of precious metals, fragments of furniture and musical instruments with decorative inlays, cylinder seals, jewelry and everyday objects. However, only one of the royal tombs, the previously mentioned tomb of Princess Puabi, was not plundered.

The finds from the cemetery can now be admired in museums in Baghdad, London and Philadelphia.

Early dynastic architectural remains

In the immediate vicinity of the younger temple tower, Woolley's expedition uncovered the remains of monumental structures from the early dynastic period. You were assigned three shifts. The older ones, called "Archaic I" and "Archaic II", date to the early dynasty I-II, the younger to the time of the first dynasty of Ur. These are parts of an up to 9 m thick surrounding wall of a courtyard, in which two larger room complexes were. They were equipped with large ovens. Woolley viewed them as parts of a temple complex and spoke of "temple kitchens".

III. Dynasty of Ur

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC The kings of the III. Dynasty of Ur over the old cemetery and earlier architectural remains a new temple district. This was intended for the moon god Nanna and his wife Ningal and consisted of several buildings: a ziqqurrat (temple tower), a residence of the high priestesses of the moon god known as Giparu (Giparku), a treasury and a royal palace. A mausoleum for the deceased rulers was also built on the periphery of this building complex, under whose rooms there were large brick tunnels.

The Ziqqurrat

The Ziqqurrat of Ur is the oldest known type of this architecture, the other examples of which are known from Uruk, Eridu and Nippur. It was made by Urnamma , the first king of the III. Dynasty of Ur, founded. It stood on an area of ​​43 × 62.5 m. The tower was presumably three-tiered, although only two tiers have been preserved, the lowest up to a height of 11 m. It consisted of a mud brick core protected by a slightly sloping brick shell. Bitumen mortar served as a binding agent for the exterior walls. Access was via a three-part staircase. Two flights of stairs leaned against the front wall and the 28 m long main staircase ran in the central axis towards the Ziqqurrat. All three parts of the staircase led to a 12 m high platform. From there the further course is only hypothetical. In any case, the stairs led to the top Ziqqurrat step, on which the sanctuary of the moon god is to be added. On the north corner of the Ziqqurrat was a multi-room facility that was obviously used as a kitchen. This is supported by various installations and small finds, a few ovens, a brick container, numerous animal bones and fish bones. The Ziqqurrat stood in the middle of a courtyard, in the enclosure of which there were numerous rooms that are to be interpreted as commercial and official rooms. It cannot be ruled out that small chapels were also set up there. Access to this courtyard was from the northeast via a front courtyard.

According to the founding inscriptions of Urnamma, the temple tower was called è-temen-ní-gùr.

See also the separate article about the temple tower in Ur.


The Giparu building stood on the southeast side of the Ziqqurrat district . It consisted of the residence of the En priestesses , high priestesses of the moon god Nanna, and the temple of the goddess Ningal , the wife of the moon god. The building probably already existed in the early dynasty, with the first known system at the time of the III. Dynasty of Ur was built. Thirteen door hinge stones found inside identify Urnamma as the founder. Its building was erected when the city was captured by Elam's troops around 2000 BC. Chr. Destroyed to the foundation walls. The building was approx. 79 × 76 m in size. The residential part could be entered from the northwest side, the temple from the southeast side through a gate flanked by towers. The foundation was 1.35 m high, the rising walls are known almost without exception from the building that was rebuilt in the Isin-Larsa period .

The northern area consisted of two large courtyards and surrounding room groups. The rooms used for ceremonies could be accessed from the western courtyard, while administration and living rooms were located on the eastern side. Under the rooms B9-B16 there were brick auditoriums of the En priestesses. A corridor running right through the building separated the residence area from the Ningal Temple. This consisted of a central courtyard, to which two broad cult rooms, Vorcella and Cella , were connected on the southwestern side . This centrally accessible group of rooms forms the first example of the so-called "Babylonian wide-space temple", which was a typical plan of southern Mesopotamian sacred architecture until the fall of the late Babylonian Empire in the 1st millennium BC. Prevailed.

Most of the installations and small finds in the courtyard and in the rooms date from the Isin-Larsa period.

Mausoleum of the III. Dynasty of Ur

The mausoleum of the III. Dynasty of Ur is a complex of three courtyard houses that stand out stamped bricks in the reign of the kings Sulgi and Amarsuen be dated. The remains consist entirely of burnt bricks, bitumen mortar was used as a binding agent. The outer walls were very thick and, like sacred buildings, were provided with niche pillars, the floor plans being very similar to the contemporary residential architecture ( hurdle house type ). There were various cult institutions, altars, pillars, terracotta tubs and water channels in the premises. The latter installations are a reference to libations that were poured out as part of the ritual care of the dead. Under the mausoleum there were four monumental tombs with false brick vaults. They were accessible through shafts and stairs. Hardly anything of the original content has been preserved, as the royal tombs were robbed when the city was conquered at the end of the Ur III period.

The Ganunmaḫ treasure house

The Ganunmaḫ building was located outside the southeast corner of the Ziqqurrat district and is commonly interpreted as the treasure house of the temple complex of Ur. It has an almost square base area of ​​approximately 57 × 58 m. The oldest building remains come from the reign of King Amarsuen, but the building was renovated again and again until the late Babylonian period.

It comprises an 18 × 23 m core building, which consists of five elongated rooms and an enclosing part of the building with several storage rooms.

Although it is a warehouse, the building is still to be regarded as a cult building. This is indicated by the column-niche structure, which is characteristic of Mesopotamian sacred architecture.

In the rooms of the building numerous objects from different periods, such as clay tablets, cylinder seals and fragments of votive offerings, including a particularly large number of stone vessels, came to light.

Eḫursag Palace

The building known as Eḫursag, which may have been a royal residence in the southeastern part of the Temenos district, occupies an area of ​​59 × 59 m. The founder appears to have been King Šulgi, whose stamped bricks were found in the pavement and in the foundation pods. More bricks with the stamps of his predecessor Urnamma had been reused in the walls.

The room layout is dominated by a large courtyard in the northern part of the building and two halls connected to it to the west, the reception hall and the ballroom, which is the usual division of the representative area for palaces of this and subsequent period. The southern part of the building was probably intended as a residential or commercial area. The building, in part only preserved in its foundations, whose entrance was probably on the north corner, has a pillar-niche structure on its outer walls.

Isin-Larsa and ancient Babylonian times

Certificate Council

The building remained largely the same in the ancient Babylonian times. There was restoration and repair work and the chapel on the first level was enlarged.

A major change, however, is the demolition of the Nanna Temple on the northwest side of the Ziqqurrat. King Warad-Sîn of Larsa built a fortified gate at this point, the so-called Warad-Sîns bastion. The outer front of the bastion was ornately designed with half-columns and a pillar-niche structure. The massive building made of adobe bricks comprised only a few small and narrow rooms that led to stairs to the roof or to the entrance through the central gate. The old gate at the east corner of the Ziqqurrathof, however, was converted into a chapel.


After the destruction by the Elamite army, the Giparu was rebuilt by the rulers of the Isin dynasty, whereby the basic concept of Ur-Nammas has largely been preserved. Only a few changes were made to the floor plan.

Numerous installations date from this period, including many brick plinths that may have served as bases for statues or steles. Examples can be found in rooms A.5 and A.16. In the latter, the remains of an altar made of burnt bricks and bitumen came to light. Several similar installations, altars, benches and brick containers were uncovered in the temple courtyard (C.7). One of the special, inscribed finds there was a diorite stele of King Hammurapi of Babylon and fragments of a limestone stele that can possibly be assigned to King Rīm-Sîn of Larsa.

In the cult room (C.21-22) a five-step staircase led to a pedestal in a deep niche (C.27) on which the cult image originally stood. In the cella , the remains of a brick bench and a fragmentary, consecrated statuette of the high priestess Enannatuma, the daughter of King Išme-Dagan of Isin , were found, which Woolley mistook for an image of the goddess Ningal. Another statuette, which presumably also shows a Ningal priestess, comes from the Vorcella (c.20) and was originally referred to by Woolley as the goddess Bau.

In room B.7 there were three stone steles with inscriptions by King Amarsuena III. Dynasty of Ur, which was only installed at this point in the Isin-Larsa period . One of them, made of limestone, stood upright, the other two, made of gypsum stone, lay with the labeled sides down.

The Giparu also had installations that suggest supply activities. In rooms C.32-34, which were used as a kitchen, two fireplaces, the remains of a bread oven and several broken pots were found.

In addition, many small finds came to light in the Giparu. Among them were numerous ceramic shards, many of them painted polychrome , as well as fragments of labeled and unlabeled stone vessels made of alabaster and diorite. Cuneiform tablets were found in some rooms.

Checkout time

Ningal temple

The most important innovation in the immediate vicinity of the Ziqqur was the re-establishment of the Ningal Temple, which was spun off from the Giparu building and relocated to the Ziqqur Courtyard at this time. This re-establishment can be ascribed to the king Kurigalzu I , whose stamped bricks were built into it.

The state of preservation of the temple varies. While only a few remains have survived in the east, the walls in the west were up to a meter high.

The temple is a free-standing building, consisting of a front and inner courtyard. In the inner courtyard, which Woolley has reconstructed with a dome-shaped canopy, there were two spacious cult rooms. In these rooms as well as in the inner courtyard there were niches and pedestals for the practice of cult. There was a brick well in the forecourt.

Two entrances led to the interior of the temple. One of them is being reconstructed leading into the eastern forecourt, the other gate secured the connection to the south-eastern Giparu. From this latter gate one could reach the processional street (called "Via Sacra" by Woolley).


During the Kassite period, probably by Kurigalzu I, the Giparu building was completely rebuilt. The most important change was the relocation of the Ningal Temple, which was part of the Giparu in the Isin Larsa period, to the Ziqqurrathof. The new building is most similar to the old one in the north-western part, where the composition of the room groups around courtyard 16 (originally A.7) has been retained. This part was probably still used as the official residence of the En priestesses. In the central area there was a residential wing and further south, where the temple was originally located, utility rooms were created. There are no tombs under the building complex from this time. As before, the main entrance to the Giparu was on the northwest side directly opposite the newly created gate to the Ziqqurrathof.


The Edublamaḫ, located northeast of the Giparu, served as the southeastern gate to the Ziqqurrathof in the Ur III period. The building was converted into a sanctuary as early as the Isin Larsa period. Under Kurigalzu I, another renovation took place in which the old building was torn down and rebuilt with changes made of bricks.

The building stood on a terrace, which was connected to a podium on the southeast side at walk level, which presumably served as a kind of sacrificial site. Next to the podium a staircase led to the temple terrace. The fronts of the terrace and the temple were decorated with two-tier niches. The temple building consisted of two rooms: a wide front cella, which had two side doors next to the main entrance, and a somewhat smaller cult room with a flat cult niche in the back wall.

Woolley suspected that the building was used as a courtroom, and translated the name of the temple, which he read E-dub-lal-maḫ, “The great store-house of tablets”. In his opinion it should be a court archive. The name is now understood as the “House of massive pilasters”, which may refer to the niche and pillar structure of the facade.

The courtyard in front of the temple, into which there were three entrances, was paved with brick. There were two altars and a well in it. The surrounding rooms were probably used for administrative and economic purposes.

Dynasties of Ur

Surname Reign
(short chronology)
(Middle Chronology)
1st dynasty
Mes-kalam-dug around 2436 BC Chr. around 2,500 BC Chr. Archaeological Level Ed IIIb ; unsecured dating
Mes-ane-pada around 2384 BC Chr. around 2450 BC Chr. Lugalanda stage
2nd dynasty
3rd dynasty / self-designation brothers of Bilgamesh ( Gilgamesh )
Ur-Nammu 2048-2031 BC Chr. 2112-2095 BC Chr.
Sulgi 2030-1983 BC Chr. 2094-2047 BC Chr.
Amar-Suena 1982–1974 BC Chr. 2046-2038 BC Chr. also known as Amar-Sin
Su-Sin 1973–1965 BC Chr. 2037-2029 BC Chr.
Ibbi-Sin 1964–1940 BC Chr. 2028-2004 BC Chr.
Successive dynasty: 1st dynasty of Isin


  • Harriet Crawford : Ur: The City of the Moon God. Bloomsbury Academic, London / New York 2015. ISBN 978-1-4725-2419-5 . (Paperback). ISBN 978-1-4725-2219-1 . (ePDF)
  • Andrew R. George: The bricks of E-sagil , Iraq 57, pp. 173-197.
  • Ernst Heinrich : The temples and sanctuaries in ancient Mesopotamia. Berlin 1982. ISBN 3-11-008531-3 .
  • Hans J. Nissen : On the dating of the royal cemetery of Ur , Bonn 1966.
  • Susan Pollock: The Symbolism of Prestige: An Archaeological Example from the Royal Cemetery of Ur , Ann Arbor 1983.
  • Eva Strommenger : Ur. Hirmer, Munich 1964.
  • Dietrich Sürenhagen : Studies on the relative chronology of Babylonia and neighboring areas from the ending Ubaid period to the beginning of the Early Dynastic II period Heidelberg 1999. ISBN 3-927552-35-6 .
  • Leonard Woolley : Ur Excavations II. The Royal Cemetery , New York 1934.
  • Leonard Woolley: Ur Excavations IV. The Early Periods , Philadelphia 1955.
  • Leonard Woolley: Ur Excavations V. The Ziggurat and its Surroundings , New York 1939.
  • Leonard Woolley: Ur Excavations VI. The Buildings of the Third Dynasty , Philadelphia / London 1974.
  • Leonard Woolley: Ur Excavations VII. The Old Babylonian Period , London 1976. ISBN 0-7141-1087-6
  • Leonard Woolley: Ur Excavations VIII. The Kassite Period and the Period of the Assyrian Kings, London 1965.
  • Richard L. Zettler, Lee Horne (Eds.): Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur , Philadelphia 1998. ISBN 0-92-417154-5 .

Web links

  • Entry on the UNESCO World Heritage Center website ( English and French ).


  1. Cf. also Gen 15.7; Neh 9.7 .
  2. For the type of landscape, see the settlement area of ​​the Marsh Arabs around the Shatt al-Arab .
  3. Iraq World Heritage List (Eng.)
  4. Woolley, 1955, pp. 7-22.
  5. Woolley, 1955, pp. 23-33.
  6. Sürenhagen, 1999.
  7. ^ Woolley, 1939.
  8. ^ In Heinrich 1982 p. 145 u. 157 called Kisalguen.
  9. Woolley, 1974 Pl. 56 completes the entrance near the west corner.
  10. Woolley, 1976 pp. 40-63.
  11. Woolley, 1965, p. 11.
  12. George, 1995, p. 186.
  13. ^ Rainer Michael Boehmer: Lugalanda level. In: Dietz-Otto Edzard (Hrsg.): Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Aräologie . Volume 7, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1987 ff., Pp. 111-114 ( online ).
  14. ^ Otto Kaiser (Ed.): Legal and economic documents - historical-chronological texts. (= Texts from the environment of the Old Testament . Old Series, Volume 1.) Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, Gütersloh 1982, ISBN 3-579-00060-8 , p. 317 f.