The Death Pit

The royal burial for PG1237 is thought to be Body 61, located in the top right corner. She was lavishly dressed, more so than any other body in the Royal Cemetery, except Puabi.
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The royal burial for PG1237 is thought to be Body 61, located in the top right corner. She was lavishly dressed, more so than any other body in the Royal Cemetery, except Puabi.
The royal burial for PG1237 is thought to be Body 61, located in the top right corner. She was lavishly dressed, more so than any other body in the Royal Cemetery, except Puabi.

PG1237, with its 74 attendants, was the most spectacular of Ur’s royal tombs. Woolley dubbed it “The Great Death Pit” since it lacked a tomb chamber. In the midst of excavations, Woolley noted, “We are doing marvelously well: I’m sick to death of getting out gold headdresses, but the other things are wonderful: if only we find the tomb to which all that we are finding now belongs we ought to beat last year hallow: as it is we are creeping up to its level….” In his final report, however, he could only suggest that limestone rubble above the floor of the death pit to the southeast might have been the remains of the chamber.

PG1237 included 6 men and 68 women. The men, near the tomb’s entrance, had weapons. Most of the women were in four rows across the northwest corner of the death pit; six under a canopy in its south corner; and, six near three lyres near the southeast wall. Almost all wore simple headdresses of gold, silver, and lapis; most had shells with cosmetic pigments. Body 61 in the west corner was more elaborately attired than the others. Half the women (but none of the men) had cups or jars, suggestive of banqueting. Body 61 held a silver tumbler close to her mouth. The neat arrangement of bodies convinced Woolley the attendants in the tombs had not been killed, but had gone willingly to their deaths, drinking some deadly or soporific drug. He suggested that in so doing they were assured a “less nebulous and miserable existence” than ordinary men and women.

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