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The Discoveries at Ur, and the seniority of Sumerian civilization

  • H. R. Hall

The British Museum, jointly with the University Museum of Philadelphia, is carrying out at Ur ‘of the Chaldees’ what is now, since a slower pace has set in with the work of Evans at Knossos, the most important British archaeological excavation. Nothing like the recent discoveries at Ur has indeed been seen in a European museum since the appearance of Schliemann's finds at Mycenae, and no such rich find of gold objects has been made since the discovery of the wealth of Tutankhamon. Like Mycenae and Knossos, Mr Woolley's discoveries tell the archaeologist a very great deal that he did not know before. They may justly be claimed as the most important work of the kind now being carried on by any British or American museum or society, whether singly or jointly. The personnel is now wholly British, but Philadelphia pays half the piper and calls half the tune. This ‘ fifty-fifty ’ relation of absolute parity between the two museums is as it should be, and the two nations are to be congratulated on their harmonious partnership in the most important archaeological excavation in the world. I stress this for I do not think that the great importance of Mr Woolley’s finds is sufficiently realized. Not merely because they contain a lot of gold, as they do (and since gold of itself doth attract a journalist, this fact has received some public attention), but because they tell us so much that is new, which Tutankhamon, for all his splendour, did not. We may find this fact appreciated now that Mr Woolley’s first provisional publication of this year’s (1927) finds has appeared in the January (1928) number of the Antiquaries’ Journal, to which I must refer my readers for detail.

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1 Langdon,Kish (1924).

2 Hall and Woolley, Al–’Ubaid (1927): see review in ANTIQUITY,i, 490–2.

3 I do not share Mr Woolley’s belief that these animals are lions.They have lions’ feet and claws, certainly, but their hindquarters and tails are those of asses:nobody ever saw a lion with a sweeping, bushy tail like that. A lion’s is like a pump–handle. The heads may have been of lions, but may equally possibly have been of gryphons.

4 Woolley, Antiq. Journ.(Jan.1928),8,5,–6.

5 Brit. Mus. Quarterly, 1927, pl.20a.

6 Childe, Dawn of European Civilization, p. 27;Frankfort, Studies in Early Pottery of the Near East, iii, 116ff. The decoration of the Ur étui is not unlike that of the bronze axehead with pick in form of a panther recently found at Mallia in Crete (Charbameaux, Mém. Fond. Rot.) which is of M.M.I. date(c. 2000 B.c.)

7 See alsoAntiq. Journ., 8,pl.9.

8 Summed up in Prof…Eduard Meyer’s recent book Die älter Chronologie Babyloniens, Assyriens, und Agyptens (1928).

9 Nicklin, T. The Origin of the EgyptianYear (Classical Review),1900 pp.146–8.

10 H. R. Hall, Ancient History of the Near East, p. 25; Cambr. Anc. Hist. i, p.169.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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