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seem to have been all floated down the Euphrates and Tigris for interment in the sacred soil of Ur of the Chaldees.
The country is inhabited by half-savage tribes of fanatical people, always at war with each other, and so hostile to strangers that, in connection with the marshes and the difficulties of subsisting in such a place, explorations had been prevented. But in 1840 Mr. W. Kennet Loftus, F. G. S., geologist on the staff of Col. Williams appointed on a joint commission from England, Russia, and the Shah of Persia for the settlement of boundary lines, was able to go there under the protection of the Turkish and Persian governments. His course was by Niffar (see No. 5 in map), and thus on to Mugeyer, the latter of which is six miles southward from the Euphrates. This region is now one hundred and twenty-five miles from the Persian Gulf, but there is reason to suppose that it was, in its populous times, much nearer, and perhaps bordered quite upon the gulf.
All these immense mounds, standing there in the great wastes of utter solitude, are interesting; but that of Mugeyer is found to be especially so from having the only existing remains of a Chaldean temple not buried under rubbish, and also from written records which that temple has preserved for our reading. Mugeyer, meaning “ The mother of bitumen,” is a name given to the spot by the present natives on account of the quantities of that substance used alone, or sometimes with reeds, to give cohesion to the bricks, either burnt or sun-dried, of which the structures are composed. The ruins at this place consist of a low series of mounds, and extend from north to south a distance of more than half a mile; but the name is given by the natives especially to a structure one hundred and ninety-eight feet long by one hundred and thirty-three in width, and about seventy feet high, the whole elevation being still further increased by a wider platform or substructure thirty feet in height. This building is in two distinct, massive stories, the lower one
strengthened by buttresses; the natives say that on the upper story was formerly an additional edifice, which is indeed attested by rubbish there five feet in height, showing probably where was the temple of their goddess.
Remains of the Ancient Temple of the Moon-goddess Hurki, at Mugeyer,
(From a drawing by Mr. Taylor.) The success of Mr. Loftus in this visit induced Mr. Taylor, British consul at Busrah, to venture on other explorations there in 1854, the result of which was the discovery of a perfect, inscribed cylinder under each of the angles of the upper story of this temple, giving us a record of an invaluable kind. The arrow-headed letters of this inscription have been deciphered by that eminent scholar in such records, Sir Henry Rawlinson; and they inform us that the temple was commenced by King Ur-uck, completed by his son Ilgi, and afterward repaired by Nabonidus, king of Babylon.'
1 This record also removes an apparent discrepancy between the Scriptures and profane historians respecting Belshazzar, by informing us that Bel-shar-ezer was the oldest son of Nabonidus, and was admitted to share in his government. Sir Henry Rawlinson also reads on this cylinder the name Kudur-Mapula, which he supposes to be the same as Chedorlaomer.
The bricks of which the temple is built bear on them the name of Ur-uck. His reign is placed by chronologists at B. C. 2230 years, or about 230 years before the call of Abraham. The temple was dedicated to the goddess Hurki, or the Moon. Sir Henry Rawlinson, in consequence of reading in this inscription the name Hur, supposes the identification of this place with Ur of the Chaldees to be complete. He believes that Niffar (see map) was the primitive Calneh (Gen. x. 10), that it was dedicated to Belus, and was called also by the name of that god; and that there was the original tower of Babel.
Another item relative to this temple of the Moon-goddess Hurki is of importance to us in connection with the subject we are now considering. Its angles are exactly toward the four points of the compass, as was the case with all the other Chaldean temples ; and the large one at Birs-nimrâd, near the site of ancient Babylon, one hundred and thirty miles northwest from this, gives proof that they all had reference to astronomy as well as to religion. This at Birs-nimrûd shows, as well by its distinct stages or offsets as by the careful pointing of its angles, that it was copied from the more primitive ones at Ur; but it was on a much larger scale, having a base two hundred and seventy-two feet on each side and a height of one hundred and fifty-six feet, its elevation being by seven successive steps. It was designated by Nebuchadnezzar as “ The Stages of the Seven Spheres :" the lower story was colored black, in honor of the planet Saturn; the next, orange, for the planet Jupiter; the third, red, for Mars; the fourth, yellow, for the Sun; the fifth, green, for Venus; the sixth, blue, for Mercury; and the last was surmounted by a temple, probably white, for the Moon. Remains of a temple still to be made out at Warka (see map) have also these receding steps; and the whole of these structures had evidently a close connection with astronomical science, which indeed we know was cultivated very largely and successfully in those regions. The atmosphere there might well induce to contemplations of the heavens; for while, with us, stars of the sixth magnitude are the smallest to be seen by the naked eye, there, two magnitudes lower, the eighth, are visible without telescopic help. “The Chaldeans were the first people who reduced their observations of the heavens to a regular system. On the authority of Berosus) it is recorded that when Alexander took Babylon, Callisthenes forwarded to his relative Aristotle, in Greece, a catalogue of eclipses which had been observed at Babylon during the previous 1903 years [back to about 2225 B. C.]. Ptolemy refers to eclipses in the year 720 B. C., which were derived from a Chaldean source. It is to these early astronomers that we are indebted for the Zodiac and the duodecimal divisions of the day.”
Perhaps we may find in these earliest temples to their gods and to mystic sciences connected with them a sufficient cause for the peculiar sacredness of this region; but, however this may have originated, the result is before us in the existing immense deposits of human remains, layer above layer, to a known height of thirty, and it is supposed of even sixty, feet. Mr. Loftus says: “It is difficult to convey anything like a correct notion of the piles upon piles of human relics which utterly astound the beholder. Excepting only a triangular space [at Warka] between the three principal ruins, the whole remainder of space within the walls and an unknown extent of desert beyond them are everywhere filled with the bones and sepulchres of the dead. There is probably no other site in the world which can compare with Warka in this respect; even the tombs of ancient Thebes do not contain such an aggregate amount of mortality. From its foundation by Urukh until finally abandoned by the Parthians—a period, probably, of twentyfive hundred years—Warka appears to have been a sacred burial-place :” and not only Warka, but Mugeyer, and indeed all this region, seem to have had a peculiar sacredness which brought to them the dead from all the regions bordering upon the Euphrates and the Tigris. These remains are found enclosed in earthenware coffins lined inside with bitumen: those of the more ancient kind are top-shaped, and contained only bones, perhaps only a head : more recent ones were formed like an oval dish from four to seven feet long and from one to three feet in depth : and finally come others shaped like slippers. Mr. Taylor discovered, at Mugeyer, a mound full of the dish-covered coffins.
1 A native of Babylon and priest of Belus, supposed to have lived about 268 B. C.
2 Vide Loftus.
There are at present two sacred Mohammedan shrines at Kerbella and Mashad Ali, only a few miles higher up the river, to which believers in that faith of a certain sect bring their dead for interment from all parts of Persia and even from India.
Was Mugeyer the “Ur of the Chaldees” from which Abraham was called? The proof is clear that the place was called Hur or Ur at about Abraham's time; that the king just previous to that was called Ur-uck; that he built this temple to the goddess Hur or the Moon ; that it was a very sacred place and so famous that the simple expression “Ur of the Chaldees” would be widely understood and need no further explanation. We know also that the ancient Jews, and after them the Arabian writers, among whom geography, as well as all other sciences, was thoroughly cultivated, designated this as the place. The name may not have belonged to the capital only, but have embraced the adjoining district on both sides of the Euphrates.
* There are two other claimants for this distinction of being the birth-place of Abraham. One is Ur, a fortress on the Tigris near Habra ; but there is no tradition in its favor, and the argument for it rests only on its