Early Dynastic III
The site of ancient Ur (now known as Tell al-Muqayyar) lies to the south of the modern city of Nasiriyah in the southwestern floodplain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Its mounded ruins are roughly oval in shape—measuring some 1200 meters northwest-to-southeast and 800 meters northeast-to-southwest—and rise 20 meters above the surrounding plain. The ruin of a temple tower (ziggurat) at the northeast end of the site rises even higher. A long broken line of smaller mounds extends northeastward for more than 1500 meters. The Euphrates river now runs to the east of Ur, but in antiquity it probably curved to the southwest (Zettler 1998).
Ur was a well developed settlement as early as the late 4th millennium B.C., but it is best known today as the city of the Sumerian moon god, Nanna, and as the traditional home of the biblical patriarch, Abraham. During the 13 years of its excavations by C. Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and early 1930s, newspapers around the world printed countless articles about his discoveries. The most celebrated of these was his unearthing of the mid-3rd millennium tombs of the Royal Cemetery, with their rich inventory of grave goods lavishly decorated in gold and lapis lazuli, and its skeletal evidence of human sacrifice (Woolley 1934).
As the capital of the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112–2004 B.C.), the city was completely rebuilt by its rulers, Ur-Nammu, Shugi, and Amar-Sin. Even though Ur’s political fortunes fluctuated a great deal after that Dynasty fell, the city remained the main port for Mesopotamian trade with the countries of the Gulf and beyond until the mid-18th century B.C. Then, along with several other southern Mesopotamian cities, it was destroyed and left in ruins for centuries to come.
The bronzes discussed in this website mostly came from Ur’s periods of occupation that are designated as the Early Dynastic III phase (circa 2700–2330 B.C.) and the Akkadian phase (circa 2330–2100 B.C.). But data on four earlier copper-based items of the Jamdat Nasr phase (circa 3200–2900 B.C.) are also included for completeness (see Early Dynastic III).