While the crate’s contents have been identified, how they came to be hiding in plain sight in Bristol remains a great unknown. Following the conventions of the day, items excavated by Woolley’s expeditions were shipped to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and to his sponsors back in London and Philadelphia. The University of Bristol had no connection to the dig.
“The remaining mystery is how this material came to be at Bristol in the first place,” says Dr. Tamar Hodos, a senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Bristol. “The environmental remains themselves were published in 1978 in Journal of Archaeological Science. The authors of that study were based at the Institute of Archaeology, London, and at the University of Southampton, and none of them had any known connection to the University of Bristol that might explain how the material came to reside here.”
After discovering the crate, Hodos contacted Dr. Alexandra Fletcher, a curator of Near Eastern archaeology at the British Museum. The pair packed the items in more secure containers, and they were taken to the British Museum to join the rest of the its collection from Ur, which are on display and included as part of a major digitization program being undertaken with the University of Pennsylvania. The University of Bristol is looking to hear from anyone who can shed light on how the relics ended up in their laboratory in the first place.