Sir Charles Leonard Woolley (17 April 1880 – 20 February 1960) was a British archaeologist best known for his excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia. He is considered to have been one of the first "modern" archaeologists, and was knighted in 1935 for his contributions to the discipline of archaeology.
Charles Leonard Woolley was the son of a clergyman, and was brother to Geoffrey Harold Woolley and George Cathcart Woolley. He was born at 13 Southwold Road, Upper Clapton, in the modern London Borough of Hackney and educated at St John's School, Leatherhead and New College, Oxford. He was interested in excavations from a young age.
In 1905, Woolley became assistant of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Volunteered by Arthur Evans to run the excavations on the Ancient Roman site at Corbridge for Francis J. Haverfield, Woolley began his excavation career there in 1906, later admitting in Spadework that "I had never studied archaeological methods even from books ... and I had not any idea how to make a survey or a ground-plan" (Woolley 1953:15). T. E. Lawrence worked with Woolley on the excavation of the Hittite city of Carchemish from 1912-14.
His work at Ur (in charge of the joint venture between the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania) began in 1922, and he made important discoveries in the course of excavating the royal cemeteries there, including the Copper Bull and the pair of Ram in a Thicket figurines, one of which is in the British Museum and the other in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Agatha Christie's novel, Murder in Mesopotamia, was inspired by the discovery of the royal tombs. Christie later married Woolley's young assistant, Max Mallowan.
Ur, found in present-day Iraq, was the burial site of what may have been many Sumerian royals. The most extravagant tomb was that of “Queen” Pu-Abi. Amazingly enough, Queen Pu-Abi’s tomb was untouched by looters. Inside the tomb, many well-preserved items were found, including a cylindrical seal bearing her name in Sumerian. Her body was found buried along with those of two attendants, who had presumably been poisoned in order to continue to serve her after death.
Local Genesis Flood Theoryעריכה
Woolley was one of the first archaeologists to propose that the flood described in the Book of Genesis was local after identifying a flood-strata at Ur: "...400 miles long and 100 miles wide; but for the occupants of the valley that was the whole world".
World War IIעריכה
His archaeological career was interrupted by the United Kingdom's entry into World War II, and he became part of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section of the Allied armies. After the war, he returned to Tell Atchana, where he continued to work from 1946 until 1949.