Preserving Cultural Heritage

The ancient metropolis of Ur is of major archaeological significance. A wealth of information about the past cultures that inhabited the city was gathered by archaeologists and helped shape the historical understanding of Mesopotamia. Excavations that began during the early twentieth century, and that have been recently reignited, attest to the continued scientific interest from scholars. The ruins have withstood the negative effects of environmental deterioration, neglect, and direct and indirect damages from human encroachment. While some of the protective measures that have been in place since 2009 provide valuable safeguards, much of the area is in need of additional conservation and preservation attention.

Continued threats include mud and baked brick erosion due to rain, flooding, sandstorms and temperature fluctuations, as well as animal activity. Human caused damages from the movement of tourists on sensitive areas of the site and past conflict operations have also led to deterioration. Conservation efforts currently focus on deteriorated ruins as well as mitigation of potential future damages. This includes regular site maintenance as well as initiatives that follow international guidelines set-forth for preserving large-scale archaeological sites.

If Ur is not properly preserved and protected, it will continue to deteriorate to the point where nothing is left of the once extraordinary city. Ruins that were uncovered in the 1920s and 1930s have almost all deteriorated or are in such a state of erosion that they have lost their scientific importance, especially those that have not been restored. Deterioration rates of exposed ruins are only accelerating as they lie susceptible to weather elements and uncontrolled visitor pedestrian traffic. While much has been learned about the past inhabitants of Ur, enacting a proper conservation plan for the excavated and unexcavated areas of the site increases the likelihood of adding to this incredible body of knowledge. Considering the high potential for tourism and related generation of job offer, the marshlands and the site of Ur can play a triggering role in the socio-economic development of the Governorate of Thi Qar, which has been largely unexplored till now.

UNESCO in collaboration with Iraqi authorities is developing an overall management plan for the site, in light of increasing tourism interest and after decades of inadequate consolidation of the city of Ur. In this light, development of sustainable tourism facilities and infrastructure to regulate the flow of visitors is paramount. The visitors tour of Ur provides safe access for tourists while operation is ensured by local communities. The work of the visitors tour includes landscaping, adjusting roads and building a car park for buses and private cars of visitors, essential to delimit the areas where vehicles can reach, fencing to protect parts of the archaeological site, provision of shuttles, as well as installation of bathrooms, pedestrian paths made of wood and indication signs along the paths inside Ur archaeological site.