DS10 - Défi des autres savoirs

The city of Ur according to the texts of the 1st quarter of 2nd millennium BCE – EcritUr

Submission summary

Tell al-Muqayyar in southern Iraq is one of the major archaeological sites of Ancient Mesopotamia. Identified in 1854 as the ancient city of Ur, it has been briefly excavated in 1918-19 before a joint expedition was set up by the British Museum of London and the University Museum of Philadelphia. From 1922 to 1934, L. Woolley carried out excavations that proved extremely fruitful, providing information for historical phases spanning from the protohistoric period to hellenistic times. The objective of “EcritUr” is devoted to the first quarter of the 2nd millennium BCE, a period which has been already subject to various studies but about which there is still much to learn. The uncovering of two residential sectors (areas EM and AH) in Ur provides ample information on the inhabitants of the city during that period; moreover, the excavation of the Moon-God (Nanna/Sin) great sanctuary (named Ekišnugal) and of other shrines allows to perceive how these religious organisations took part in the political, legal, economic and social life of the city.
The Old Babylonian royal inscriptions and literary texts discovered at Ur have been the subject of much work, the archival documents however were published only as hand copies and never thorough edited. Therefore, the first objective of “EcritUr” is to give an electronic edition of these 1500 texts, after collation of the originals; this will be realized within the “Archibab” database which allows for the embedment of a lot of metadata. This corpus will be increased by the publication of still unpublished tablets kept in the British Museum or at Yale. This will allow a better understanding of the new tablets that are and will be found at Ur by the new mission directed since 2015 by E. Stone (Stony Brook University), who chose the scientific coordinator of the proposed project as epigraphist of her expedition.
Once the texts will be properly edited, the information derived from them will be subject to pluridisciplinary approaches according to the areas of specialization of the project's members. Monographs will be devoted to the study of the syllabary thanks to a newly developped tool (TXM), as well as to the evaluation of the levels of literacy including a reappraisal of schools and schooling. Other will focus on the management and accounting practices, the archival practices and the juridical life; special attention will be paid to the status of women. The religious calendar and the pattern of offerings will be investigated. Other studies will concern historical geography, political history as well as environment, economical and religious life. During the last months of the project, an international workshop followed by a colloquium will be organized. Eventually, the scientific coordinator will publish a book tentatively entitled Portrait of a Mesopotamian City: Ur during the first quarter of the 2nd Millennium B.C.
The creation of new digital tools to exploit the wealth of data hidden in the cuneiform documentation becomes evermore important. Besides the scientific outcomes, the proposed project will also be of relevance for Assyriology as such: the “Archibab”-site is an important digital tool with high international reputation and the way “EcritUr” will benefit from and to “Archibab” can be seen as a very good example of the possibility to make long term research compatible with the financing of projects of limited duration.
Making the wealth of information available about Ur and its region as well as publishing the tablets newly discovered, and providing a new picture of one of the major Mesopotamian cities is a challenge and at the same time an exciting prospect. The experience of the research team, the complementarity of its members' skills, its close relationships with foreign teams, and the well-defined nature of the project are elements that ensure the feasibility of the operation within the planned 36 months.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Dominique Charpin (Proche-Orient, Caucase : langues, archéologie, cultures)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


POCLAC COLLEGE DE FR Proche-Orient, Caucase : langues, archéologie, cultures

Help of the ANR 375,624 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2017 - 36 Months

Useful links