This special issue of Expedition is in honor of the publication of Ur Excavations (U.E.) volume VII and the completion of fifty years of work on the material remains excavated at Ur. U.E. VII, devoted to the Old Babylonian Period at Ur and edited by T. C. Mitchell for the British Museum (the British Museum and the University Museum was each responsible for editing half of the volumes) was published late in 1976, exactly fifty years after the publication of U.E. I, devoted to the material from al-‘Ubaid, which appeared in 1927.
Ur was excavated in a joint expedition by the British Museum and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, under the direction of C. L. (later Sir Leonard) Woolley, in a series of thirteen annual campaigns, from 1922 to 1934. These excavations have now been published in a series of ten volumes, some of which appeared during Woolley’s lifetime, while others, though based largely on manuscript left by Woolley, have been published subsequent to his death in 1960 (for an appreciation of Woolley’s work, see the obituary by Sir Max Mallowan written for The London Times and reprinted in Expedition, 3/1 , 25-28). The cuneiform tablets found at Ur appear in a separate series of volumes, known as Ur Excavations Texts or U.E.T., and are still in the course of publication.
This issue of Expedition deals with the actual organization of the joint expedition through extracts from letters in the archives of the University Museum, with some problems in the interpretation of the Royal Cemetery, the discovery of that cemetery being the event which made Ur famous, and with the Sumerian literary texts found at Ur. A subsequent issue of Expedition will deal with other aspects of the material from Ur.