“When the (large-scale) excavations restart, tons of antiquities will see the light of day, filling entire museum wings,” enthused Dhaif Moussin, who is in charge of protecting a site that has been prone to looting.
“This site will become perhaps more important than Giza,” he added, referring to the plateau outside the Egyptian capital of Cairo where some of mankind’s most treasured antiquities have been unearthed, including the Sphinx and several notable pyramids.
That may not be just an idle boast.
In the early 1900s, American archaeologist Charles Leonard Woolley made some stunning finds when he unearthed 16 tombs of Ur’s elite.
Inside he found some of the greatest treasures of antiquity, including a golden dagger encrusted with lapis lazuli, an intricately carved golden statue of a ram caught in a thicket, a lyre decorated with a bull’s head and the gold headdress of a Sumerian queen.
Those treasures have been compared to the riches from the tomb of the Egyptian boy-king, Tutankhamun, but they excite archaeologists even more because the graves at Ur are more than 1,000 years older.
Archaeologically, the most astonishing find of Ur has been a remarkably well-preserved stepped platform, or ziggurat, which dates back to the third millennium BC, when it was part of a temple complex that served as the administrative centre of the Sumerian capital.
To date, hardly 20 percent of the site has been excavated, mainly by American and British archaeologists.