Philadelphia (Dec. 17)
(By Our Philadelphia Correspondent, Robert Reiss)
A first-hand account of the city where Abraham was born, Ur of the Chaldees, was brought to this city today by Dr. Leon Legrain, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
Dr. Legrain returned recently from the Museum’s excavations at Ur, where part of his task was to decipher hundreds of inscriptions found on all sorts of objects that were left there by Sumerian, Babylonian, and Semitic tribes in the days when Ur was a great city, fought for and destroyed several times by rival kings.
“We have no definite archeological evidence to support the statement in the Bible that Abraham was born in Ur,” Dr. Legrain said, “but we have recovered numerous objects with Semitic inscriptions, enough to establish the fact that in the hodge-podge of races that resided at Ur in Abraham’s time there were many Semites.”
Ur was a kind of New York in Abraham’s day, crowded by groups representing all the races of the Biblical world, and the prophet moved among them, absorbing the knowledge that later was to blossom forth in the words of wisdom that drew the Israelites about him.
“Abraham chose the right time to leave Ur, if we are to believe the Bible,” said Dr. Legrain, “because a short time after he had passed through the gates of his native city the Babylonians descended upon it and destroyed it, just as it had been destroyed several times before.”
Dr. Legrain and his associates have discovered that, probably among the several conquerors of Ur, which is believed originally to have been Sumerian, was Sargon the First of the Semitic tribe called Akkadians.
“Whether or not these Semites actually conquered Sumerian Ur we do not know,” said Dr. Legrain, “but we have dug from out the sands of centuries indisputable evidence showing that Sargon installed his daughter as high priestess of the Temple there. This, of course, was long before Abraham’s time, about 700 years, we believe.”
Dr. Legrain and his fellow archeologists have made an architect’s drawing of the entire city of Ur as it was in 2700 B. C, showing in comparative detail the very room where this Semitic princess assisted in the sacrifical rites.
The houses were planned very much as they are today in the Near East, about a shaded court upon which all the windows opened. No windows were built in the outer walls, partly to avoid the sun, and partly to make it more difficult for enemies to enter. The main building was the Temple, which towered high above the desert and the surrounding structures.
Inscriptions found by Dr. Legrain on numerous tablets and other objects very often contain the name Abraham, but, of course, they afford no clue to the identification of Abraham of the Bible, as there were so many of that name.
“The Arabian natives of the district today,” the archeologist said, “pointed out to us a spot 100 yards from the Temple where, they said, Abraham had his home. Of course, we cannot accept their statement. We have excavated the spot thoroughly and carefully, and have been able to find nothing in the ages-old debris that would give us a clue to the great Hebrew leader.”
The archeologists have centered their efforts on a period of civilization in Ur when the Sumerians were in power. From the objects recovered it has been determined that Ur was really a jewel in the desert, despite the fact that its walls were of mud brick. The interiors of the buildings at least were covered with a glaze probably brightly colored. Alabaster ornaments and utensils were in frequent use; women, at least the upper caste women, wore elaborate jewelry, which, although seldom made of the precious metals, were carefully and sometimes intricately fashioned. Door jambs were made of stone brought from far distant northern countries, and because they were made of this durable substance, they were used as tablets upon which to record events.
The builders of the city of Ur may have had a premonition that same day the record of their lives would be exposed to a very different civilization, for, at certain intervals in the wall surrounding the city, they inserted boxes containing tablets telling of the progress of the construction.
The altar where the Hebrew high priestess may have supervised the sacrifical rites, has been uncovered, as well as the princess’s kitchen, the mud-walled stove of which the archeologists found could still be used for quite effective cooking.
Entrance to the Princess in her altar room was made by means of a double door, carefully guarded, and a short hall, the walls of which still stand. Inside the city wall ran a street, beautifully and smoothly paved in blocks that still remain, almost 5,000 years after a glorious desert civilization perished.
During next week free dinners will be provided the poor at the Knickerbocker Grill, 141 West 41st Street, New York, through the generosity of Benjamin Fechter.
Mr. Fechter is a member of the Grand Street Boys’ Association and instrumental in the operations of numerous charitable organizations.