The Roman Britain & Ur Collections

This is the first of a series of posts about my Roman britain & Ur Collections.

I currently work at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in London, Ontario, which is in the process of building a new Sustainable Archaeology Facility. As a component the museum’s storage was being relocated from one area of the museum to another; it was during this move that we discovered a very interesting collection, which later turned out to be two very interesting collections.

The collection was labeled as ‘Old World Roman Artifacts’, and consisted of 7 bankers boxes of various pottery, metal and stone artefacts. It quickly became apparant to us that many of the intact pots were simply not roman, however, we were not sure where they were from.

A few of the larger intact pots had been stuffed with newspaper and we decided to remove this as we thought that some other artefacts were inside the pots as well. What we found in the largest pot answered the question of where the other artefacts had come from geographically, but not the exact site.
Ur Collection large pottery vessel

The pot contained what is known as a cuneiform cone, which is made of terracotta and then written on using the cuneiform writing, and would have originally been placed in the foundations of building during construction.

The cuneiform cone told us the artefacts were from an ancient site associated with the King Gudea in what is now modern day Iraq.

Cuneiform Foundation Cone
After studying the collection further and using the excavation numbers found on many of the artefacts, for ex. U.14444, I was able to identify that the collection had been excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley at the archaeological site of Ur between 1922 and 1934. This was very exciting.
The big question now was how did these aretefacts end up in storage at a museum in Ontario, Canada?
To be Continued…

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