After nearly 80 years, archaeologists have returned to one of the world’s most prolific archaeology sites. While the site was initially excavated in the 1850s, Sir Leonard Woolley’s well-publicized 20th-century excavations exposed valuable artifacts and thousands of years of the Sumerian city-state’s history, spurring on associations with Abraham’s birthplace, the Biblical Ur of the Chaldees.
Archaeologists returning to Iraq have uncovered a massive structure on the ancient banks of the Euphrates River, ten miles from the city center. The recent discovery’s monumental size—with nearly nine-foot-thick walls—suggests that it was a palace or a temple. The team, led by University of Manchester archaeologist Jane Moon, employs techniques not available to Woolley and his team. Moon identified the structure in satellite images, and so far her team has only exposed a small section of the monumental complex. While Woolley’s excavations were famous for producing lavish artifacts including the Standard of Ur (pictured above, right), Moon’s modern archaeological toolkit will allow her team to reconstruct the economy, diet, climate and daily life at the Sumerian capital.