Sir Charles Leonard Woolley

Leonard Woolley was born in London, the son of a clergyman. Often as a child he thought about following in his father�s footsteps, however, the call of archeology lured him away. He graduated from University of Oxford and went on to become a great archeologist. His most notable work was the information he gathered about the Sumerians from the excavations at Ur of the Chaldees.

Woolley first started working as Assistant Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford from 1905 until 1907. He worked with T.E. Lawrence from 1912 to 1914 and later in 1919 clearing Carchemish, the Hittite city, and in Sinai. Woolley also worked in Tell el Amarna with the Egypt Exploration Society. From 1922 through 1934 he was in charge of the joint venture between the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania excavating at Ur of the Chaldees where he made his greatest discover

The Ur of Chaldees, found in present-day Iraq, was the royal burial site of many Mesopotamian royalties. Woolley discovered tombs of great material wealth. Inside these tombs were large paintings of ancient Mesopotamian culture at its zenith, along with amazing pieces of gold and silver jewelry, cups and other furnishings. The most extravagant tomb was that of �Queen� Pu-Abi. Amazingly enough, Queen Pu-Abi�s tomb was untouched by the hands of looters through the millennia. Inside the tomb, many well-preserved items were found including a cylindrical seal bearing her name in Sumerian. Her body was found buried along with her attendants who had poisoned themselves in order to join her and continue to serve her. Woolley reconstructed her funeral ceremony from the findings in her tomb. Today her headdress, cylinder seal and her body are on display at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1936, after his discoveries at Ur, Woolley was interested in finding ties between the ancient Aegean and Mesopotamian civilizations. This led him to the Syrian city of al-Mina. From 1937 to 1939 and from 1946 to 1949 he was in Tell Aichana. Leonard Woolley was knighted in 1935. Agatha Christie wrote Murder in Mesopotamia because she was inspired by the discovery of the royal tombs. She later married his younger assistant.

Woolley wrote over 25 books, two of his more famous books are Spadework: Adventures in Archaeology, published in 1953 and Excavations at Ur: A Record of 12 Years� Work, published in 1954.

Horne, Lee. “Ur and its Treasures: The Royal Tombs.� Expedition Magazine. Vol. 40, No. 2 1998. http://mcclungmuseum.utk.edu/specex/ur/ur-hist.htm. 27 Sept. 1999

Klein, Richard G. “Sir Leonard Woolley.� World Book Encyclopedia. Ed. A. Richard Harmet. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 1990.

Nelson Group. “Bowers Museum Hosts the Royal Tombs of Ur.� NCG Gazette. http://www.nelsongroup.com/sub-bowers.html. 26 Sept. 1999.

University of Pennsylvania. “The Royal Tombs of Ur History of Art 101 Recitation Two: Week of September 16.� http://www.arth.upenn.edu/101/recitation/recitation02text.html. 26 Sept. 1999.

University of Pennsylvania. “Tomb Chamber of RT 800.� http://www.arthistory.upenn.edu/522/puabi/chamber.html. 26 Sept. 1999.

Woolley, Sir Leonard. Ur of the Chaldees: A Record of Seven Years of Excavation. Norton and Company, Inc., New York. 1965.http://www.cc.ukans.edu/~hoopes/standard.htm. 27 Sept. 1999.

Written by Sharry Severson and Courtney Bouchie

Edited by Marcy L. Voelker, 2007


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