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Ur, Iraq

Home to the Largest Ziggurat in the World

A common scene at Ur: inappropriate restoration techniques of ancient features.



Today the site and its remains face numerous threats, especially neglect.  Many of the structures are suffering from erosion and other effects of exposure which is placing many of the extant structures in danger of collapse.  Site structures such as the ziggurat have also been subjected to inappropriate restoration and damaged during wars and conflict in Iraq during the last 20 years, with bullet holes and bomb craters evident at the site.  In contrast to many other archaeological sites across Iraq, though, Ur has largely been spared the looting that has ravaged many other sites as a result of the military bases and personnel in the vicinity.

As a whole, the ruins are suffering from environmental deterioration and conservation neglect. Mud brick walls are collapsed and crumbling in several places, showing signs of advanced deterioration in sections. Some of the conservation efforts from the 1920s, ‘60s and ‘90s are also causing damage to the original structures. Pedestrian traffic is causing damage to the top to the ziggurat, and foot paths are visible on and around culturally sensitive areas throughout the site. The majority of the outlaying areas of the site are unexcavated, with evidence of vehicle track marks in several spots.  Pottery sherds litter the ground throughout the site, and mud brick walls and floors are partially exposed between sand dunes.

The joint coalition Camp Adder/Ali Airbase (collectively known as Tallil) was established as an Iraqi Air Force base in 1971, and was constructed about a kilometer away from the archaeological remains of the ancient city of Ur. The Iraqi Air Force remained at the base until April 2003, when U.S. and Coalition Forces took over control. A fence was erected around the perimeter of the base, including airstrips, living areas, and the archaeological sites of Ur and Diqdiqqah. Since April 2003, the archaeological sites have been secured within the base perimeter, although responsibility for Ur has now been handed back to Iraq.  The base does have Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to obtain a dig permit before digging for construction. However, conducting an environmental or archaeological survey is not part of the SOP.