Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


12 October 2012

The memory of dead in ancient Near East. The example of the “Royal Cemetery” of Ur in South Mesopotamia (in Greek)

Κωνσταντίνος Κοπανιάς in Μπουραζέλης, Κ., Καραμανωλάκης, Β. & Κατάκης, Σ. (eds), Ιστορήματα 3: Η μνήμη της κοινότητας και η διαχείρισή της (Αθήνα 2011): 47-68.


The “Royal Cemetery” of Ur contained 16 graves, which, according to their excavator Sir Charles Leonard Wooley, belonged to members of the city’s royal dynasty. In every burial a single person was accompanied by numerous followers (up to 74). The deceased have been carefully arranged in a staged scene, which hasn’t been convincigly interpreted so far. This paper proposes a new interpretation, based on the Poem The Deaht of Ur-Namma and also other texts of the late 3rd and early 2nd mill. B.C. The staged scene is not depicting a feasting in honor of the dead, but the preparation for the procession, which is going to escort him/her to the Netherworld. The honored dead awaits in his chamber for the conclusion of the funerary rites of his relatives. Then he will be able to join his entourage and proceed with his long and arduous journey. When they finally cross the Gate(s) of the Netherworld and enter the palace of Ereshkigal, he is going to offer a feasting and also give his own funerary offerings as gifts to various deities, in order to secure his high social status in his new and permanent abode.  


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