Important Mesopotamian city in southern Babylonia. The site was first excavated by H. R. Hall in 1918–1919, and later by a joint expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum of Pennsylvania under Leonard Woolley (1922–1934). It was situated on the Euphrates and had access to the Persian Gulf. Ur has a long and continuous history of occupation that began in the Ubaidperiod(c. 4500 B.C.) and ended around 450 B.C. It was the seat of the moon god Nanna(r), or Sin. The earliest levels were not substantially excavated and are mainly known from pottery and tools. During the Uruk period, a monumental building with cone mosaic decoration was erected.
   Ur began to develop into a major city in the third millennium B.C., during the Early Dynastic period. The Sumerian King Listrecords two dynasties at Ur. The First Dynasty was more or less contemporary with the period of the so-called Royal Graves of Ur, excavated by Woolley. The elaborate burial gifts demonstrate the considerable wealth of the elite. Of the four kings mentioned by the King List, only Mesannepadda is known from brief inscriptions on objects found in the graves. The question of whether the other personages buried in the graves, both male and female, were sacrificial victims or secondary interments is still debated. According to the Sumerian King List, the Second Dynasty of Ur had four kings, whose names are not preserved.
   During the Akkad period, Ur formed part of the empire founded by Sargon of Akkad, whose daughter, Enheduanna, served the moon god as the highest-ranking priestess. Ur was one of the cities that rebelled against Naram-Sin.
   The apogee of Ur’s importance was the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100–2000), when the city became the capital of a large and prosperous empire. Most of the extant architectural structures and cuneiformtablets found at Ur date from this period. Ur-Nammu, the founder of the dynasty, built a large ziggurat that has been partially restored. His successors continued his building works in the sacred precinct that included the temples of Nanna and Ningal, as well as the residence of the entu priestesses. Although the city was destroyed by the Elamites in 2007, the temples plundered and torched, and the inhabitants massacred, it was soon reinhabited.
   In the Old Babylonian period, Ur was an important center of learning, and from this time a number of residential buildings have been excavated that give a good impression of the densely built urban fabric of a Mesopotamian town. The “heirs” of Ur, the kings of Isin and Larsa, were keen to show their respect to the gods of Ur by repairing the devastated temples. Despite the ecological problems experienced by the south toward the mid-second millennium, Ur continued to function, and the Kassite kings were also eager to contribute to the moon god’s temples. So did subsequent rulers: NebuchadrezzarIrebuilt the giparuand revitalized the office of the entu priestess.
   Assyrian kings and governors also invested in the sacred precinct at Ur, and finally Nabonidus, with his well-publicized devotion to Sin, ordered the reconstruction of the ziggurat. The city began to decline during the Achaemenid period, and records cease after the end of the fourth century B.C. See also KURIGALZU I.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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