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Year : 2003  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 10 Table of Contents     

Laments for UR


Date of Web Publication22-Jun-2010

Correspondence Address:
Rachel Hajar

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Hajar R. Laments for UR. Heart Views 2003;4:10

How to cite this URL:
Hajar R. Laments for UR. Heart Views [serial online] 2003 [cited 2021 Jun 13];4:10. Available from: https://www.heartviews.org/text.asp?2003/4/1/10/64509

   Ur Top

The site of Ur is known today as Tell al Muqayyar, in South Iraq. Ur was one of the first village settlements founded around 4000 BC by the inhabitants of Sumer [Iraq].

It was a magnificent and superb cultural and commercial center thousands of years before the rise of Greek and Roman civilizations. Ur is believed to be the traditional home of the biblical patriarch Abraham (Gen. 12:4-5). The biblical name, Ur of the Chaldees, refers to the Chaldeans who settled in the area about 900 BC.

The discovery of the Royal Tombs of UR by the British archaeologist Leonard Woolley in the 1920s revealed to the world the hidden splendors of that ancient city. Many of the artifacts uncovered by Woolley are housed at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Ur was fabled as the city of the Sumerian moon god Nanna. Until March 19, 2003, the massive ziggurat [temple] of this deity, one of the best preserved in Iraq, stood proudly 21 m (70 ft) above the desert, a silent testament to a glorious past.

Around 2100 BC, the city of UR was invaded by barbarians, wreaking ruin and destruction. Laments for Ur 1 & II, ancient Sumerian poems, mourn the destruction of the city. The poems were inscribed on clay tablets in cuneiform script, the earliest form of writing known to man.

The images and sentiments expressed have not changed throughout the millennia.

Laments For Ur


He [Enlil] called the storm that annihilates

the land.

The people mourn.

He called disastrous winds.

The people mourn.

[Great] fires he lit that heralded the storm

And lit on either flank of furious winds

the searing heat of the desert.

Like flaming heat of noon, this fire scorched.

The storm ordered by . . . in hate,

the storm which wears away the country,

Covered Ur like a cloth, veiled it like a linen sheet.

On that day did the storm leave the city;

that city was a ruin. . .

The people mourn.

Dead men, not potsherds littered the approaches,

The walls were gaping;

the high gates, the road, were piled with dead.

In the side streets, where feasting crowds

would gather,

Scattered, they lay.

In all the streets and roadways, bodies lay.

In open fields that used to fill with dancers,

they lay in heaps.

The country's blood now filled its holes,

like metal in a mold;

Bodies dissolved - like fat left in the sun.

Source: Oates J. Babylon. London: Thames and Hudson, 1986


When they overthrew, when order

they destroyed

Then like a deluge all things together,

the enemy consumed.

Whereunto, Oh Sumer! Did they change


They demolished the city,

they demolished the temple,

They seized the rulership of the land.

Source: Woolley, CL. The Sumerians. W.W. Norton, 1965

   Lost Treasures from Iraq Top

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Iraq, known as Mesopotamia in ancient times, was the cradle of human civilization. History began in ancient Iraq and its legacy to mankind is vast: the first written words, the first written laws, the first mathematical calculations, the first schools, and the invention of the wheel, to name but a few. There, man learned to selectively breed crops and animals for the benefit of mankind. Such technique is referred to today as genetic engineering, and its application changed the course of human history.

From the heartland of ancient Iraq, mankind first conceived of freedom and justice. This we know, for beautifully engraved on basalt stela are the words of a once just king, "To cause justice to prevail in the land, that the strong may not oppress the weak." That king was Hammurabi, 8th century BC ruler of Babylon. Carved upon a polished black stone monument, Hammurabi's illustrious Code of Laws stands eight feet high and it now resides at the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is of interest that the renowned stone was found, not in Babylon but in the mountains of Persia (present day Iran), where some later conqueror carried it in triumph as booty. History repeats itself: AD 1258 - Mongols sacked Baghdad, burning and destroying books - knowledge - in their wake; AD 2003 - US "shock and awe" bombs pounded Baghdad, and in its aftermath, Iraq's - and mankind's - civilization lay in ruins.

Archeological excavations over the last 100 years in Iraq have yielded priceless artifacts, the study of which has allowed historians to piece together a continuous and coherent history of the human race from 9,000 B.C. Thousands of these artifacts, about 170,000 pieces, were housed in the National Museum of Baghdad. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute states, "Spanning a time from before 9,000 B.C. well into to the Islamic period, they [the collection] included some of the earliest tools man ever made, painted polychrome ceramics from the 6th millennium B.C., Assyrian reliefs and bull figures from Assyrian capitals of Nimrud, Nineveh, and Khorsabad, to Islamic pottery and coins - an unrivaled treasure not only for Iraq, but for all of mankind."

These treasures were stolen or smashed to bits and pieces by thieves during the invasion. Reports on the damage and the number of lost or stolen objects vary between 50,000 to 200,000. Most shocking were reports that this monstrous act was orchestrated by wealthy art collectors, the vultures of human heritage. It was a black day in the annals of mankind.

Indeed, the loss of these treasures is heartbreaking. We mourn the ruin and devastation of our heritage.


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