This city was the center of a brilliant pagan culture in southern Mesopotamia. Probably founded c. 2800 B.C., Ur was already at its height in the days of Abraham (perhaps about 1980 B.C.). It exerted a tremendous social, religious, and commercial influence in the Mesopotamian region and beyond, nevertheless Abraham and Terah were prepared to leave in obedience to God’s instructions (Gen. 11:31; Gen. 12:1; Gen. 15:7). Some years after Abraham left, the city was sacked by Elamite raiders and was lost to history for many centuries.
Today a 150-acre mound is all that remains of Ur. Excavations by Woolley (1922-1934) at the site (Tell Mugheir) revealed the grandeur of the ancient city as seen in the burial places of two important persons, possibly a ruler and his wife. Their attendants had been buried with them, ceremonially attired for the occasion, and included with the bodies were a magnificent golden helmet, a splendid harp decorated with mosaic work, elaborately-designed gold and silver articles, and other beautiful objects of the period.
Woolley also excavated parts of the business district of Ur, and the streets leading to a residential area. The houses there were two-story mud brick and plaster structures built around three sides of a paved courtyard. They contained about a dozen rooms and had toilets and sunken baths, fireplaces, and fountains. Ruined school buildings contained tablets inscribed with student exercises in arithmetic, literature, and other subjects. Small chapels were found throughout Ur, some of them in private homes. The great ziggurat (tiered temple) of Nanna, the moon deity, overshadowed all other buildings in the city.
Deep in the mound, Woolley discovered an eight foot thick layer of water-laid clay, which he attributed to the flood of Noah, but which may have represented the original river-bed. Traces of flood deposits at other Mesopotamian sites varied somewhat from Woolley’s date of the Ur stratum, making it difficult to support his claims and impossible to use his findings in debating whether Noah’s flood was local or global.