Major Archaeological Find Reveals Ancient History of Iraq and Home of Biblical Abraham

First Posted: Apr 04, 2013 11:01 AM EDT

A major archaeological find has thrown new light on the history of ancient Iraq. A team has uncovered an amazing structure that was once an administrative complex and which served one of the world's earliest cities. How did they find it? They discovered the location on satellite.

About 4,000 years ago, the ancient city of Ur thrived in southern Iraq. The home of the biblical Abraham, the Sumerians and later, the Babylonians, the area was once the birthplace of cities and civilizations. The latest find is about 260 feet on each side and possesses an arrangement of rooms around a large, central courtyard, according to The site also has a clay plaque which depicts a worshipper wearing a long robe with a fringe down the front opening approaching a sacred place.

The findings are only now being studied due to the fact that the area has been off-limits to international archaeologists for many decades. Now, a team of British researchers are examining the location and unearthing a piece of lost history. The archaeologists are currently trying to determine what the climate was like in the area by analyzing plant and animal remains found at the site. That said, the current thought is that the region was probably marshy; the head of the Gulf was much further north at the time, and maritime trading was possible, bringing in valuable resources from India and the Arabian peninsula.

This is the first archaeological dig to take place in the area since the 1980s, and is made possible because parts of Iraq are now relatively stable. Yet for years, Iraq's treasures have been plundered from museums and from ancient sites.

"Far more material than what has been reported missing from the Iraq Museum in Baghdad is being ripped from the ground and leaving the country," said Henry Wright, who led an expedition to assess ancient sites and key museums in 2003, in an interview with National Geographic. "Extraordinary damage is being wreaked on this irreplaceable archaeological record."

Iraq is home to a wealth of historical sites, estimated to range between 20,000 to 100,000. Yet these sites have been blocked off for years, and little archaeological work has been conducted in key areas of the country.

"The aim is to help rebuild capacity in archaeological expertise and heritage management, working alongside members of Iraq's State Board for Antiquities and Heritage, and to address the 20-year isolation from the international community," said Stuart Campbell, one of the researchers, in an interview with

The British archaeologists plan to continue working at the site. It's possible that in the future, this work could expand to other nearby sites as they unearth clues about Iraq's ancient past.

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