The History of Ur

By Arnoldy, Ben | The Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The History of Ur


Arnoldy, Ben, The Christian Science Monitor


Iraqi soldiers from Talil Air Base fled the recent US advance through the nearby ruins of Ur, one of civilization's earliest cities. Their dusty uniforms lie abandoned on the floor of a house believed to have belonged to Abraham, the Biblical patriarch.

Iraq is one of the few Muslim countries to take pride in pre- Muhammad history. But years of economic decline and now postwar uncertainty threaten the 6,000-year-old city and other archeological jewels in the region once known as "The Fertile Crescent."

After being shut out in recent years by Saddam Hussein's regime, Western archaeologists are eager for access to Ur - one of the most important archeological sites in the world. Basic site protection and preservation is their first concern.

Ur's current caretakers are a poorly paid yet dedicated family of four. Chief guide Dhief Muhsen lives on site with his father and two brothers. The government paid the family approximately $500 a year, and they were dependent on Oil for Food rations.

"Our family is in hardship," said Mr. Muhsen. Until recently, the Muhsens supplemented their income with tips from tourists. Visitors from Germany and France came at a rate of one group per day during the mild seasons, and once a month during the summer.

Many of these tourists came to pray. Abraham is considered a patriarch of the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the Bible, God tells Abram to leave Ur with his family and head to Israel, the promised land. Abram is renamed Abraham, "father of many."

The site's importance goes beyond Abraham. Its ziggurat, a terraced-pyramid temple of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians, rises some 50 feet above the surrounding desert plain. Built over 4,000 years ago, the temple has slanting walls and steps.

The tourists to Ur and the government subsidies are gone now. US troops have been feeding the Muhsens and protecting this national monument from terrorists or looters.

So far, looters haven't reached this remote area in southern Iraq. But Western archaeologists remain concerned about the site's status.

The Iraqi government once ran a fairly professional archaeological operation, says archeologist Francis Deblauwe. But any provisional government will have its hands full, he says. "They're going to have so many problems with enforcement," he says. "The black market will grow."

During a visit to the site, it is obvious preservation does not seem to be a high priority. Muhsen uses his fingers to brush sand off cuneiform inscriptions. People are allowed to walk up the crumbling steps of the ziggurat.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The History of Ur
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?