British archaeologist Leonard Woolley discovered the tomb of Puabi, which was excavated by his team at the "Royal Cemetery of Ur" between 1922 and 1934.
Puabi's tomb was clearly unique among the other excavations; not only because of the large amount of high quality and well-preserved grave goods, but also because her tomb had been untouched by looters through the millennia.
The forensic examination of her remains, undertaken by London’s Natural History Museum, indicates that she was roughly 40 years old when she died and stood just under five feet tall.
Her name and title are known from the inscription on one of three cylinder seals found on her person. She is most commonly identified by the title "nin" or "eresh", a Sumerian word which can denote a queen or a priestess. Today the common name used is Puabi, which in Akkadian means "Word of my father".
In early Mesopotamia, women, even elite women, were generally described in relation to their husbands. For example, the inscription on the cylinder seal of the wife of the ruler of the city-state of Lagash (to the east of Ur) reads “Bara-namtara, wife of Lugal-anda, ruler of the city-state of Lagash.” The fact that Puabi is identified without the mention of her husband may indicate that she was queen in her own right. If so, she probably reigned prior to the time of the First Dynasty of Ur, whose first ruler is known from the Sumerian King List as Mesannepada.
The cemetary was originally dug outside the walls of the city of Ur, and were built over by the walls of Nebuchadnezzar's larger city about 2,000 years later. Some 1,840 burials were found, dating to around 2600 BC. They ranged from simple burials to elaborate ones in domed tombs reached by descending ramps. Sixteen of the early burials Woolley called 'Royal Graves' because of the rich grave-goods, the presence of burial chambers, and the bodies of the attendants who had apparently been sacrificed.
|This photograph gives some idea of the depth to which some of the tombs of Ur were buried.|
Most of the spectacular treasures from The Royal Tombs of Ur came from her burial chamber, which hadn't already been looted by grave robbers. Inscribed artifacts from the Seal Impression Strata (SIS) layers above the Royal Tombs at Ur name Mesannepada, King of Kish, an honorific used by rulers claiming control over all of southern Mesopotamia.
Queen Puabi was less than five feet tall, recorded as 4'11", and was clearly a woman of important status, given the wealth and abundance of her grave goods, and the number of men and women who were sacrificed to serve her in the afterlife. She was surrounded with her personal possessions, the richest found in any Sumerian tomb. Buried with her were the bodies of 26 attendants, men and women, and a team of oxen harnessed to a decorated processional chariot.
|Female attendants of the Queen found in the Great Death Pit.|