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Ancient complex near biblical home of Abraham discovered

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A sprawling complex near the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq, home of the biblical Abraham has been uncovered by British archaeologists. Believed to be about 4,000 years old, archaeologists say the building probably served as an administrative center for Ur, around the time Abraham would have lived there before leaving for Canaan, according to the Bible.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "This is a breathtaking find," Stuart Campbell of Manchester University's Archaeology Department, who led the dig said. Unusually large and roughly the size of a football field, it's approximately 260 feet on each side.

Campbell says that complexes of this size and age were rare. The compound is near the site of the partially reconstructed Ziggurat, or Sumerian temple, said.

"It appears that it is some sort of public building. It might be an administrative building, it might have religious connections or controlling goods to the city of Ur," Campbell said in a telephone interview.

The complex of rooms around a large courtyard was found 12 miles from Ur, the last capital of the Sumerian royal dynasties whose civilization flourished 5,000 years ago.

One of the artifacts unearthed was a 3.5-inch clay plaque showing a worshipper wearing a long, fringed robe, approaching a sacred site.

The site could also reveal the environmental and economic conditions of the region through analysis of plant and animal remains.

The six-member British team began last month and worked with four Iraqi archaeologists to dig in the Tell Khaiber in the southern province of Thi Qar, some 200 miles south of Baghdad.

International archaeologists have been kept away from Iraq due to the past years of war and violence that have wracked the region. Significant archaeological sites as yet unexplored are believed to still be buried there. The dig proved that such collaborative missions could be possible in parts of Iraq that are relatively stable, like its Shiite-dominated south.

Campbell's team was the first British-led archaeological dig in southern Iraq since the 80s. It was also directed by Manchester University's Dr. Jane Moon and independent archaeologist Robert Killick.

"This has been an opportunity to get back to an area very close to our heart for a long time," Campbell said.

Iraq faces a broader problem of protecting its archaeological heritage as it 12,000 registered archaeological sites are poorly guarded - and could fall prey to warfare and vandalism.

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