From Šulgi to Abraham: Encounters with Ur in the First Millennium BCE
Keywords:Babylonian historiography, Assyriology and the Bible, Transmission of knowledge, Reception, Ancient historiography
Of all the ancient cities that could have served as Abraham’s hometown, why does the Hebrew Bible choose Ur? This article explores how different groups may have interacted with Ur and its legacy circa the exilic and postexilic periods of biblical authorship, to discern the ways different groups in Babylonia engaged with Ur, and how their interactions may have informed their perception of the city. It argues that Babylonian Judeans largely did not have direct access to the city or to the cuneiform artifacts that described its history. Instead, Judeans would have had to rely on information transmitted orally from Babylonians, whose interest in Ur may have been elevated due to the preponderance of artifacts from the Third Dynasty of Ur. As such, this article will evaluate different forms information traveled in the ancient world, and the ways they impacted the direction of cultural memory: through archaeological discoveries, word-of-mouth transmission, and scholarly rationalization.
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