Home Society and HistoryMass Human Sacrifice of Ur in Ancient Mesopotamia
Mass Human Sacrifice of Ur in Ancient Mesopotamia

Mass Human Sacrifice of Ur in Ancient Mesopotamia

Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, a famous English archaeologist, excavated the land of Ur in Mesopotamia from 1922 to 1934. The archaeologists called the burial tomb the grave pits or the death pits. The most impressive excavation during this time by Woolley was the PG 1237. Woolley called it “the great death pit” because of the number of bodies inside the burial site. All of the bodies rested in neat lines with luxurious dresses. The archaeologists believed that it was a mass human sacrifice of Ur and those people followed their master or mistress to the afterlife. But whether they voluntarily sacrificed themselves or not was still a question awaiting an answer.

Image of Human sacrifice in Ur
“Ram In A Thicket” found in PG 1237

PG 1237 – The Royal Cemetery of Ur

During the excavation in Ur, Woolley and his team excavated six burial sites that they could call the grave pits. In fact, there were tombs that connected to the surface with a shaft. The death pits were constructed around the tombs of the main tomb of the main figure. The death pits that Woolley excavated consisted of many remains of retainers that belonged to the important individual.

In the death pit PG 1237, Woolley and his team discovered up to 74 skeletons six of which belonged to the male and the rest were women. The skeletons of the males were found at the gates of the tombs and they were equipped with armor and weapons. The archaeologists concluded that the men were to protect and guard the tombs against the grave robbers. As to the female skeletons, the majority of them were lying in four rows in total when the archaeologists found them.

Image of Map of the great death pit
Map of the Great Death Pit

Woolley expressed his opinion that all the individuals inside the tomb were the servants of the tomb owner. However, voices have raised against this opinion of Woolley saying that the English archaeologist might have missed the tomb owner. Because the owner of the tomb might have been buried inside the tomb.

Body 61 in the Human Sacrifice of Ur

The individual that the the archaeologist named Body 61 did wear many luxurious pieces of adornments. Meanwhile, other people in the tomb didn’t dress themselves that much. The women in the tomb wore the simple headdress while the Body 61 wore the most elaborate headdress. With the luxurious headdress and clothes of the Body 61, the archaeologists believed it belonged to the either a queen or a famous priest. This made the archaeologists believe that Body 61 was the owner of the tomb.

Image of the woman skeleton found in PG 1237
Skeleton of the woman with luxurious headdress found in PG 1237
Image of Human sacrifice of Ur
Reconstruction of headdress and jewelry that the servant wore when sacrificed themselves

Other mysteries around the Great Death Pit still await a precise answer. The most mysterious and intriguing question was as to why the attendants of the tomb died. Researching the positions of the bodies, Woolley concluded that the bodies were arranged to escort their mistress to her afterlife. Woolley also suggested that those people might have died because of a kind of poison which either killed them on the spot or made them unconscious so they would feel no pain and gradually fall into death.

Question remaining and theories surrounding

In the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, scholars carried out a study upon the skeletons inside the tomb. The skulls of a woman and a warrior had signs of fracture which was probably the result of the blunt instrument. Theories surround this point. It says that the sedative wasn’t potent enough to cease the life of those people. So their head were struck with blunt weapon to make sure they wouldn’t be buried alive.

Moreover, there was a theory that those people were unconscious because of the sedative and then clubbed to death. Though many raised their voice against this theory, everything remains a mystery.

Image of PG 12137 Mass Human Sacrifice of Ur
Mystery still surround the PG 1237

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