HALL OF MARI (TELL HARIRI(
Excavations of the French Mission.
One day in August 1933, some Bedouin of the Middle Euphrates
region were burying one of their dead men at Tell Hariri about 11 Km. north-west
of Abu Kamal, they unearthed a mutilated statue. The
matter was immediately reported to the local authorities. The news of the
discovery soon reached the Louver Museum which consequently decided to send all
archaeological mission headed by Mr. Andre Parrot to explore the site.
Shortly after the commencement of excavations, It was proved
to the mission, as a result of Its discovery of a number of statues bearing some
Cuneiform inscriptions, that Tell Hariri was the location of an ancient city
named Mari which was a seat of the 10th dynasty after the deluge.
The mission carried out 18 expeditions at the tell, between
the years 1933 - 1968. including six before the Second World War. In the course
of these expeditions, the mission discovered three or four temples, a Ziggurat
and a royal palace counted as one of the biggest palaces
of the ancient world. In addition to the above-noted discovery, the mission also
unearthed a collection of alabaster statues in different sizes and thousands of
Cuneiform tablets written In Akkado-Babylonian. Among the tablets are letters
illuminating brilliantly all that related to the affairs of life: economy,
commerce, regulations, administration, laws, religion, literature and so on.
The ancient city of Mari is about 2.5 Km. to the west of the
present Euphrates. In olden times, the Euphrates was running near the city.
The Tell is of an oval shape, one kilometre long by 600
meters wide, and its highest point in proportion to the near-by plain is 14
No sondages (An archaeological term meaning a deep trench.
often of restricted area, to investigate the stratigraphy of a site) in the
strict sense of the word have been carried out yet at the Tell, but our
knowledge of the city and the different period of its long history increases
year after year.
Professor Parrot holds that the periods recognized in the
Tell from the remains of the city are from top to bottom as follows :
Parthi-Sassanid Period: Its
relics were found in the tombs scattered on the surface
of the Tell.
Neo-Babylonian and Assyrian
Period : ( sixteenth century. down to the fourteenth century B.C. ): Its relics
were found in a number of terracotta tombs.
Period of the Kings of Hana ( after
Hammurabi ): Poor and few installations were found.(
Eighteenth century B.C.
Period of the Kings of Mari who were
contemporaries with the first Babylonian dynasty :
Temple of Ishtar and Temple of Ninhursag ( about 2000 B.C. ) .
Period of the rulers who were
contemporaries with the 3rd dynasty or Ur: Temple or
Dagon, Temple of Ninhursag and the Palace ( 2100-2250 B.C. ) .
Sargonic Period ( about 2600 B.C. )
Temple of Ninhursag and some anonymous sanctuaries.
Pre-Sargenic Period (2700-3100 B.C. )
: Temple of Ninhursag and Temple of Ishtar.
Jamdet Nasr Period ( about 3100 B.C.)
: Stone constructions under the Temple of Ishtar.
As a result of the annual periodical excavations, we have
been able to get a yield of valuable antiquities that revealed the history of
the Middle Euphrates region throughout its long eras.
In the archives of the Royal Palace in Mari , a valuable
collection ( over 20,000 ) of Cuneiform tablets were found. These tablets which
date back to the first Babylonian dynasty ( about 2000 B.C. ) are made of
sun-dried clay and bear Akkado-Babylonian Cuneiform characters which are no
different from those of the first Babylonian dynasty. Even the language is
mostly Akkadian, but the vocabulary and tone leave no doubt that those who wrote
them spoke Babylonian.
The Royal Palace discovered in Mari in l955 is counted as one
of the most magnificent Palaces of the ancient Orient or rather one of the
wonders of the world in the beginning of the second millennium. B.C. It
comprised some 300 rooms, corridors and halls, and covered an area of 200 meters
long by 12 meters wide. Its construction was an enterprise accomplished by a
number of generations of kings and princes. In fact, the palace was the
centre of the official life of a vast kingdom, an administrative city where the
king used to grant audience and where hundreds of the civil servants used to run
the affairs of the state. There were many wings near the palace: one reserved in
particular for the royal household, one for the courtiers, one for scrolls and
one for the armourers. The Palace was surrounded with thick walls to protect it
against attack. The existence of bathrooms and ceramic bath-tubs indicates the
luxury that reigned in the royal residence. Some of the halls were decorated
with elaborate mural paintings remarkable for their colours, variety of themes
and beauty of composition.
In short, no ancient royal palace could rival the Palace of
Mari in grandeur, organization and artistic creation.
The excellent geographical position of Mari on the Middle
Euphrates made the city an intermediary between the Mediterranean Sea on the one
hand, Mesopotamia and Anatolia
on the other. Mari was the most important commercial centre
that many a kingdom tried by some means or other to dominate, so that they might
be able to control the caravan route which linked the different countries of the
ancient world. The Amorites who found abode in Mari could
maintain their independence for a long time and could make this very city which
stretched and turned out to be very strong, a capital of the Middle Euphrates.
The city also controlled the caravan routes and became very
rich from tolls and from the products of its fertile soil. All these factors
made it easy for the Amorites to establish one of the most brilliant
civilizations of the third and second millennia B.C.
It was Hammurabi , king of Babylon, who disrupted the city, incorporated it to
his empire and opened the road before his commercial caravans and armies to
arrive at the sea, the mountains of Cadres, and the copper and the gold areas so
that Babylon might remain the sole unrivalled Capital of the Ancient Orient