Oh No, Not Again

Depending on acquiring proper funding, large scale excavations may someday resumed at Ur, Tell al-Muqayyar, in Iraq. That will likely take a while. Provided they are well controlled and quickly published, I think new excavations would be a good thing. But much of the article in the Telegraph discussing such excavations is extremely troubling.

With the country ravaged by war and strife since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Baghdad’s struggling government has had greater priorities than funding large-scale digs at Ur – the birth place of Abraham and one of the cradles of civilisation – where only small teams have been working since 2005. [emphasis added]

And later,

Tinney [Steve Tinney, professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania] said he hoped for the discovery of texts that would shed light on the culture and polytheistic religion of the Sumerians.
“We do not have literature on Ur-Nammu and his successors, the Sumerians or their rituals,” said Tinney.
The site would be unequalled in the world if it proves to be the birthplace of Abraham, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, said Moussin [Dhaif Moussin supervisor of the site].

The goal of any excavation must be to recover the history and material culture of a site. Any other goal is fraught with the risk of significant error and likely disappointment. The probability of finding new tablets at Tell al-Muqayyar is certainly high enough to warrant some additional enthusiasm. The probability of proving or even supporting Ur as the birthplace of Abraham is as close to zero as Bayesian analysis will allow. Talking about it is the kind of dangerous hype that, unless promptly and properly ignored, can derail an excavation and lead astray informed public opinion of valid scholarship. Fund raising, and that is what this appears to involve, based on Abraham hype, or any other hype, is nothing short of fraudulent.