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Chronology of the Royal Cemetery of Ur

  • Susan Pollock

Extract

The study of chronology is little but a dry exercise when undertaken for its own sake alone. Yet, there can be little doubt that it remains a necessary prelude to virtually all of the more interesting analyses of social, political, economic, and other issues which archaeologists may seek to address. It is in this spirit that I would like to present a reevaluation of the internal chronology of the Royal Cemetery of Ur which has formed the basis of my ongoing research into various sociological aspects of the cemetery.

The Royal Cemetery constitutes a vast body of data, largely without parallel in Mesopotamia. Well excavated and reported for its time (Woolley, 1934, 1955), it contained more than 2,000 burials, many of them with lavish sets of material accompaniments. The so-called Royal Tombs, from which the cemetery derives its name, contain, in addition to vast quantities of material wealth, the bodies of anywhere from a few to more than 70 individuals accompanying the principal occupant of each tomb. Although the most spectacular graves all appear to date to the earliest portion of the cemetery's use, burials continued to be made in the cemetery, apparently without interruption, for some 500 years.

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