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(ûr), ancient city of Sumer, S Mesopotamia. The city is also known as Ur of the Chaldees. It was an important center of Sumerian culture (see SumerSumer
and Sumerian civilization
. The term Sumer is used today to designate the southern part of ancient Mesopotamia. From the earliest date of which there is any record, S Mesopotamia was occupied by a people, known as Sumerians, speaking a non-Semitic language.
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) and is identified in the Bible as the home of Abraham. The site was discovered in the 19th cent., but it was not until the excavations of C. Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and 30s that a partial account of its history could be constructed. Remains found at the site seem to indicate that Ur existed as far back as the late Al Ubaid period (see MesopotamiaMesopotamia
[Gr.,=between rivers], ancient region of Asia, the territory about the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, included in modern Iraq. The region extends from the Persian Gulf north to the mountains of Armenia and from the Zagros and Kurdish mountains on the east to the Syrian
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) and that the city was an important commercial center even before the first dynasty was established (c.2500 B.C.). Among the most important remains of the first dynasty, which has revealed a luxurious material culture, are the royal cemetery, where the standard of Ur was found, and the Temple of Ninhursag at Ubaid, bearing the inscriptions of the kings of the first dynasty. Ur was captured c.2340 by Sargon, and this era, called the Akkadian period, marks an important step in the blending of Sumerian and Semitic cultures. After this dynasty came a long period of which practically nothing is known except that a second dynasty rose and fell. The third dynasty was established c.2060 B.C. under King Ur-NammuUr-Nammu
, fl. 2060 B.C., king of the ancient city of Ur, sometimes called Zur-Nammu or Ur-Engur. He founded a new Sumerian dynasty, the third dynasty of Ur, that lasted a century.
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, who built the great ziggurat that has stood, although crumbled and covered with sand, throughout the centuries. An inscription in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in İstanbul was identified (1952) as a fragment of the code of Ur-Nammu. It predates the code of HammurabiHammurabi
, fl. 1792–1750 B.C., king of Babylonia. He founded an empire that was eventually destroyed by raids from Asia Minor. Hammurabi may have begun building the tower of Babel (Gen. 11.4), which can now be identified with the temple-tower in Babylon called Etemenanki.
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 by 300 years and is the oldest known law code yet discovered. The third dynasty of Ur fell (c.1950 B.C.) to the Elamites and later to Babylon. The city was destroyed and rebuilt throughout the years by various kings and conquerors, including NebuchadnezzarNebuchadnezzar
, d. 562 B.C., king of Babylonia (c.605–562 B.C.), son and successor of Nabopolassar. In his father's reign he was sent to oppose the Egyptians, who were occupying W Syria and Palestine. At Carchemish he met and defeated (605 B.C.
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 and Nabonidus in the 6th cent. About the middle of the 6th cent., Ur went into a decline from which it never recovered. A record dated 324 B.C. mentions it as being inhabited by Arabs, but by that time its existence as a great city was forgotten. The change in the course of the Euphrates, which had been the source of the city's wealth, probably contributed to the final decline of Ur. Ur is mentioned often in the Bible (Gen. 11.28,31; 15.7; Neh. 9.7) and was at one period known to the Arabs as Tall al-Muqayyar [mound of pitch].


See C. L. Woolley, Ur of the Chaldees (1930, repr. 1965), Excavations at Ur (1954, repr. 1965), and The Buildings of the Third Dynasty (1974).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient city-state on the site of the ruins of the fortified town of Tallal-Muqayyar, 20 km southwest of the modern city of al-Nasiriyah in Iraq. The first settlement on the site of Ur appeared in the late fifth millennium B.C., when painted pottery of the Ubaid (Ubayd or Obeid) culture was widespread here. In the fourth millennium, during the Uruk period, Ur developed into a city. By the 25th century B.C., during the First Dynasty of Ur, whose rulers included Mesannepada and Aannepada, it became a powerful state. During the 24th to 22nd centuries, except for brief intervals, it was first under the rule of the neighboring city-states of Lagash, Umma, and Uruk (better known as Erech) and then under the rule of the kingdom of Akkad and the Guti tribe.

Circa the 21st century, Ur became the capital of the Kingdom of Sumer and Akkad (the Third Dynasty of Ur). During the reign of King Ur-Nammu (21st century B.C.), a law code was compiled, believed to be the most ancient law code in Mesopotamia. The period of the Third Dynasty is characterized by the existence of vast royal domains where the slavelike exploitation of the laborers prevailed. The ideological bases of despotic royal rule were created; for example, a unified pantheon was introduced, and the idea of the immortality of the kings was disseminated. The four subsequent kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur—Shulgi Amar-sin, Shu-sin, and Ibbi-sin—were deified in their own lifetimes. The dynasty fell circa 2000 B.C., in the course of a war with the Amorites and Elamites. Ur remained an important trade and artisan center subject to first the Babylonians (from the 18th to sixth centuries B.C.) and then the Achaemenids (from the sixth century B.C.). By the late fourth century B.C., Ur had fallen into a decline.

Ur was excavated by the Britons J. E. Taylor in 1854, R. Campbell Thompson in 1918, and H. R. Hall from 1919 to 1922; particularly extensive excavations were conducted from 1922 to 1934 by an Anglo-American expedition headed by C. L. Woolley. The most numerous and interesting remains date from the First and Second dynasties of Ur. Sixteen “royal” tombs, dating from the First Dynasty (25th century B.C.), yielded numerous luxurious articles made of gold, silver, alabaster, lapis-lazuli, obsidian, and other materials, sometimes exhibiting mosaic techniques.

During the period of the Third Dynasty (21st century B.C.), the city had an irregular oval plan and was surrounded by brick walls. The fragmented brick buildings dating from this period include the ruins of a palace and a temple complex dominated by a fourtiered ziggurat. (For additional information on the artistic culture of Ur, seeBABYLONIAN AND ASSYRIAN CULTURE.)


Tiumenev, A. I. Gosudarstvennoe khoziaistvo drevnego Shumera. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Woolley, C. L. Ur khaldeev. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from English.)
Gadd, C. J. The History and Monuments of Ur. London, 1929.
Ur Excavations, vols. 1–5, 8–10. Oxford-London, 1927–62.
Ur Excavations Texts, vols. 1–6. London, 1928–63.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


On drawings, abbr. for urinal.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


an ancient city of Sumer located on a former channel of the Euphrates
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005