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The Royal Tombs of Ur

  • C. Leonard Woolley

The royal tombs that have been discovered at Ur this winter are remarkable not only for their contents but for their construction, and for the light they throw on Sumerian funeral customs unguessed hitherto.

We have dug some nine hundred graves in this cemetery and the types are well established. There are a certain number of clay coffins; they form a small proportion of the whole and tend to be commoner in the late than in the early period, but do occur even in the earliest time. The normal grave is a rectangular shaft measuring little more than 1½ metres by I metre; the bottom of this may be lined with matting and the body, wrapped in a mat, simply laid in it, or there may be a coffin, generally made of wickerwork with wooden stays, occasionally of wood: it contains the body and the more personal ornaments, while the rest of the offerings are deposited by the side of it in the grave-shaft.

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1 Of the waggons there remained only the black stain of wood in the earth and the copper bolts that fastened the body to the axle; but these stains could be traced out and even photographed. The wheels were solid, with leather tyres; the axle seems to have revolved with the wheels, not the wheels on the axle.

2 š I Sub [ka+šu]–ad [nin.

3 A good deal of the plundering of the graves was done at the times of these levelling operations; the section of the upper soil often shews pits filled with late rubble going straight down into the tomb strata. One such shaft came down right alongside the plundered royal grave PG. 777 and a broken cone of Ur–Nammu was found in it almost at tomb level. But the tomb had probably been robbed much earlier.

4 Not necessarily from the grave of the queen herself; the seal might have been carried by any member of her household.

5 For the remarks on the seals I am indebted to the Rev. E. Burrows, S.J

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