Ancient city and district, Sumer, southern Mesopotamia. It was situated on a former channel of the Euphrates River in what is now southern Iraq. One of the oldest cities of Mesopotamia, it was settled sometime in the 4th millennium BC. In the 25th century BC it was the capital of southern Mesopotamia under its first dynasty. Though it later declined, it again became important around the 22nd century BC. It is mentioned in the Bible (as Ur of the Chaldees) as the early home of Hebrew patriarch Abraham (c. 2000 BC). In subsequent centuries it was captured and destroyed by many groups, including the Elamites and Babylonians. Nebuchadrezzar II restored it in the 6th century BC. Excavations, especially in the 1920s and '30s, uncovered remains of great archaeological value.
Northeastern facade (the ascents partly restored) of the ziggurat at Ur, southern Iraq.—Hirmer Fotoarchiv, Munich
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