Thursday, April 25, 2013

History Mystery: Ur The Legendary City Of Abraham Part.II

Sumer had no rocks or forests, so its merchants had to trade the produce of its fields and the creations of its artisans for stone, timber, and metal ores. Commerce created its own needs: writing became a essential skill, and a system of arithmetic had to be devised. From about 300 BC onwards, a cluster of city-states grew up in Sumer: Ur, Uruk, Eridu, Lagash and Nippur among them. Further upriver, other trading partners, such as Mari, shared many of their achievements. These cities had become true urban communities ruled by centralized administrations, with temples, palaces, and specific quarters allocated to groups of craftsmen. Because of its position on the Euphrates, Ur must have been an important warehousing centre. At that time, too, the city was probably on the sea-coast at the head of the Persian Gulf – sediments carried down by the Tigris and Euphrates have since then pushed the coastline further south. By the early centuries of the 3rd millennium BC the city had become prosperous. In 1927, Woolley’s team excavated the royal cemetery to the south – west of the city.

They found 2000 graves dating from between 2600 and 2100 BC, within what is known as the Early Dynastic period. The tombs were densely packed – often one on top of another. Many had been plundered by grave-robbers, but from the few that had survived intact, the excavators reaped a golden harvest of fine artifacts. Many of the tombs contained rich grave offering, and 16 pit graves with funerary chambers of stone or brick yielded startling contents. The tomb of Queen Puabi, who lived around 2500 BC, contained a wooden chariot decorated with mosaics of coloured stone and white shell. Nine fantastic headdresses were found, shaped from lapis lazuli and carnelian and hung with gold beaten flat in the shape of beech and willow leaves.

 The glister of gold was everywhere. Even a bundle of spears bore heads tipped with the precious metal. All of the artifacts were of the most exquisite quality. With these riches came evidence of macabre burial rites. The royalty of the Early Dynastic period seem to have been interred with their entire households. The golden spears were in the hands of skeletal soldiers, and the fantastic headdresses framed the skull of sacrificed women. From the tombs, Woolley reconstructed the grim majesty of the ceremonial burials. With a handful of attendants, each royal body had been laid to rest at the bottom of a long, sloping shaft. The chamber was then sealed up, and a doomed procession of courtiers, soldiers, servants, and musicians followed down the shaft. In their gorgeous apparel they were, in Woolley’s haunting words, ‘part of the tomb furniture’. Each figure bore a cup containing a lethal potion, which they drank as they prepared themselves for eternity. The musicians played on to the end before taking the poison, then the grave was filled in. fires were lit above ground and funeral banquet held. The 16 royal tombs all contained evidence of mass sacrifice. In some cases as many as 80 people were interred with their sovereign. The largest grave of all was found almost empty, its contents plundered with the exception of one unique relic – a magnificent mosaic made of shell and lapis lazuli on a wooden box 45 cm (17 ½ in) long. The box became known as the Royal Standard of Ur. It is made up of two long rectangular panels with two triangular end-pieces display mythological images. The peace scenes show a royal feast with servants in attendance, and the war scenes depict images of battle, with servants in attendance, and the war scenes depict images of battle, with chariots and light and heavy infantry engaging a naked enemy. The soldiers wear copper helmets and long, hooded cloaks.

 Their weapons and axes and short spears. These were Ur’s shock troops, men who marched right up the Euphrates in the 3rd millennium BC, perhaps as far as the Mediterranean coast. They were needed for the defence of the homeland, too, for even in the Early Dynastic period, nomadic invaders threatened the Sumerian frontiers. For centuries Sumer had been infiltrated by Semitic tribes from the Syrian and Arabian deserts. They had founded their own cities in the heart of Mesopotamia, and traded with those under Sumerian control. The peoples of Mesopotamia, and traded with those under Sumerian control. The peoples of Mesopotamia formed a fairly homogenous culture, but had never been a unified nation. Sovereignty among the cities was exercised by whoever happened to be strongest at the time.

( Cont....)


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