Syrian Archeology in danger: Mari, Tel Al-Hariri

One of the subjects I am going to concentrate on in this blog is the danger to and ,in many cases, the destruction of the Heritage and antiquities of Syria.

البوكمال / تل الحريري – ماري : سرقة بيت البعثة الاثرية وحفريات سرية  Mari (modern Tell Hariri, Syria) was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city, located 11 kilometers north-west of the modern town of Abu Kamal on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, Syria. It is thought to have been inhabited since the 5th millennium BC, although it flourished with series of superimposed palaces that spans a thousand years, from 2900 BC until 1759 BC, when it was sacked by Hammurabi.[1]

Discovery and excavationMari was discovered in 1933, on the eastern flank of Syria, near the Iraqi border. A Bedouin tribe was digging through a mound for a gravestone that would be used for a recently deceased tribesman, when they came across a headless statue. After the news reached the French authorities currently in control of Syria, the report was investigated, and digging on the site was started on December 14, 1933 by archaeologists from the Louvre in Paris. Discoveries came quickly, with the temple of Ishtar being discovered in the next month. Mari was classified by the archaeologists as the “most westerly outpost of Sumerian culture”.[citation needed] Since the beginning of excavations, over 25,000 clay tablets in Akkadian language written in cuneiform were discovered. Finds from the excavation are on display in the National Museum of Aleppo, the National Museum of Damascus, and the Deir ez-Zor Museum. In the latter, the southern façade of the “Court of the Palms” of Zimri-Lim’s palace has been reconstructed, including the wall paintings.[2]
Mari has been excavated in annual campaigns published in Syria, 1933–39, 1951–75, and since 1979; a journal devoted to the site since 1982, is Mari: Annales de recherches interdisciplinaires. The 21 seasons up to 1975 were led by André Parrot. Less than half of the 1000 x 600-meter area of Mari has been uncovered as of 2005. Although archaeologists have tried to determine how many layers the site descends, it has not proved possible as of 2008. According to French archaeologist André Parrot, “each time a vertical probe was commenced in order to trace the site’s history down to virgin soil, such important discoveries were made that horizontal digging had to be resumed.”
Mari TabletsThe Mari Tablets belong to a large group of tablets that were discovered by French archaeologists in the 1930s. More than 25,000 tablets in Akkadian were found in the Mari archives, which give information about the kingdom of Mari, its customs, and the names of people who lived during that time. More than 8,000 are letters; the remainder includes administrative, economic, and judicial texts. The tablets, according to Andre Parrot, “brought about a complete revision of the historical dating of the ancient Near East and provided more than 500 new place names, enough to redraw or even draw up the geographical map of the ancient world.”[3] Almost all of the tablets found were dated to the last 50 years of Mari’s independence (ca. 1800-1750 BC), and most have now been published. [4] [5] [6] [7] The language of the texts is official Akkadian but proper names and hints in syntax show that the common language of Mari’s inhabitants was Northwest Semitic. Contemporary archives have been found, among others, in Tell Leilan in the Upper Khabur area and Tell Shemshara in the Zagros Mountains.[8]
First Golden AgeThe city flourished from about 2900 BC, since it was strategically important as a relay point between the Sumerian cities of lower Mesopotamia, and the cities of northern Syria. Sumer required building materials such as timber and stone from northern Syria, and these materials had to go through Mari to get to Sumer.

The Sumerian King List (SKL) records a dynasty of six kings from Mari enjoying hegemony between Adab and Kish, ca. 25th c. BC. Several names of kings from this period, including those from the kings’ list, are also known from correspondence found elsewhere, including Ebla.
First destruction

After a period of eminence, Mari was destroyed in the mid-24th century BC. This destruction brought a period of relative decline in importance in the region, and the city was reduced to no more than a small village. Historians are divided as to who destroyed the city; some name Sargon of Akkad (who stated that he had passed through Mari on his famous campaign to the west), while others say it was the Eblaites, Mari’s traditional commercial rivals.[9] [10]
Second Golden Age

The status of the city was revived again under an Amorite dynasty. Amorites, a Semitic people, also set up dynasties in Assyria and Babylon during this period. The second golden age commenced around 1900 BC. Two significant archaeological discoveries were made that dated back to this period. The royal palace of Zimri-Lim, a king of Mari, contained over 300 rooms. The palace was possibly the largest of its time, and its reputation in neighboring cities and kingdoms was well-known. The state archives were also built during this time. [11]
Final destruction

Mari was destroyed again around 1759 BC by Hammurabi, sixth king of Babylon. This is known from the numerous state archives tablets that recount Hammurabi turning on his old ally Zimrilim, and defeating him in battle. After this destruction, it was inhabited sporadically by Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians but the city remained a village until the arrival of the Greeks, and vanished from history thereafter.
Economy

The growth of the city from a small village to an important trading center was due to its diverse economy in the ancient world. The city came to control the trade lanes between different regions such as western Iran, Mesopotamia, Carchemish, and parts of Anatolia. Cities that Mari is confirmed to have traded with include Ur, Aleppo, and Ugarit. The cargo brought through the city grew to include dates, olives, pottery, grains, timber, and stone. Trade might also have occurred with the nearby city of Terqa, but excavations of Terqa are relatively recent and not all results are published. [12]
Culture and religion

Coordinates: 34°32′58″N 40°53′24″E The citizens of Mari were well known for elaborate hair styles and dress, and were considered to be part of Mesopotamian culture, despite being 240 kilometres (150 mi) upriver from Babylon. It is theorized by some that Mari functioned as a trading post for southern Mesopotamia.

The inhabitants of Mari worshiped a vast array of gods and goddesses. Dagan, the deity of storms, had an entire temple dedicated to him, as did Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, and Shamash, the Sun god. Shamash was believed to be all-knowing and all-seeing, and in many seals he is seen standing between two large doors. According to the Epic of Gilgamesh, these doors are between Mount Mashu, and are the eastern doors to heaven. Through Mari’s extensive trade network, Sumerian gods and goddesses were taken to non-Sumerian cities such as Ebla and Ugarit and incorporated into their native religions.

Protect Syrian Archaeology حماية الآثار السورية
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©Alisar Iram

About alisariram

I am an artist, a writer and a researcher. I know Arabic and English . I am interested in music and art of every description. I like to describe myself as the embodiment of a harmonious marriage between two cultures which I value and treasure.
This entry was posted in Images, Syria, Syrian Archaeology and antiquities, Syrian Heritage and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Syrian Archeology in danger: Mari, Tel Al-Hariri

  1. Pingback: Syrian Archeology in danger: Abu Kamal, Mari, Tel Al-Hariri | alisariram

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