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 meters.

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 :

1.      Parthi-Sassanid Period: Its relics were found in the tombs scattered on the surface of the Tell.

2.      Neo-Babylonian and Assyrian Period : ( sixteenth century. down to the fourteenth century B.C. ): Its relics were found in a number of terracotta tombs.

3.      Period of the Kings of Hana ( after Hammurabi ): Poor and few installations were found.( Eighteenth century B.C. (.

4.      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. ) .

5.      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. ) .

6.      Sargonic Period ( about 2600 B.C. ) Temple of Ninhursag and some anonymous sanctuaries.

7.      Pre-Sargenic Period (2700-3100 B.C. ) : Temple of Ninhursag and Temple of Ishtar.

8.      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 .       


The treasure of King of Mari Consud or Ansod :

This precious treasure was found in a medium size terracotta jar which was hidden in a pillar of one of the rooms of the Royal Palace which belongs to the first dynasty existed in the first stratum under the palace of Zimri-lim. The jar was discovered in 1965 during the 15th expedition of excavations.
The treasure is a present sent by Mesannipadda, King of the city of Ur-Mesopotamia, to his colleague or friend or master Cansud ( or A.nsud), king of Mari. This present has its magnificence in view of the important place which the kingdom of Mari enjoyed in the middle of the third millennium B.C. A lapis lazuli octahedral bead bearing Sumerian Cuneiform inscriptions read: dedication from god Gal-Mesannipadda, King of the City of Ur to Cansud, King of Mera i.e. Mari. This bead is a very important document since its reveals to us the historical relations between Misannipadda, King and founder of the first dynasty of Ur and Kansud ( Ansud) , King and founder of the dynasty of Mari before the pre-Sargonic Period and the 10th dynasty after the Deluge.
The preliminary discoveries undertaken in the Zimri-lim Palace and the second stratum confirm the importance of the dynasty of Mari, the greatness of its kings and the architectural beauty of the palace.
The following is a piece found in the Jar :

An eagle with a lion head and a body in lapis lazuli chiseled in fine lines to indicate the feathers and wings. The head and the tail are covered with many gold sheets. The eyes are encrusted with bitumen. The eagle is the symbol of god Ningurso. PreSargonic Age.

H. 11.8 cm. W. 13 cm.

Sculpture in Mari :

In this big showcase which comprises four compartments and a niche, we display collections of stone, alabaster and limestone statues found in the Temple of Shamash, god of the sun and in the Temple of Ishtar.
A glance at these statues will reveal the realistic, expressive trend in the realm of sculpture. The attitude of persons, the flexibility of lines, the nature of clothes, the precision of lineaments, all these indicate an evident desire for complying with the reality. To these can be added the aspect of gentleness, solemnity, smile and the look of contemplation and religious meditation which distinguished these statues. It is noteworthy that these statues had their special places in every temple beside the statue of the god. They were placed in banquettes specially made to receive the presents from the sincere worshippers. This tradition was common among the Semites in Syria and Mesopotamia in view of the high esteem with which the religion was held by these people.
The alabaster constituted the principal material used in the sculpture of Mari. Only few statues were carved in diorite. We have found only one statue in diorite representing King Ishtup-Ilum ( now displayed in the Museum of Aleppo ). In fact, the use of the diorite was more spread in Mesopotamia than in the Middle Euphrates.
It seems that the sculpture in Man had a more lucrative than artistic end. It is to be noted that the artists used to set up their ateliers in the neighborhood of the temple so that their statues would be within an easy reach of those who desire to offer a statue to the deity. Therefore, we find a great resemblance among the statues prepared for sale: Persons sitting or standing in their traditional dresses i.e. either a long garment covering all parts of the body with the exception of the right shoulder to ensure the free movement of the hand, or a skirt covering the lower part of the body and hung from the waist by a broad belt leaving the trunk denuded. The dress was the same for both sexes, the women were distinguished from men only by breasts, when the bust is denuded; by the hair style and the ornament. Sometimes it is difficult for one to know the sex of the statue. The priests are distinguished from the laymen by the head-dress. That of the priests takes the form of a bonned named "polos". On the whole, most of the statues were bare-headed and beardless. In all the statues, the feet are bare, Moreover, some of the statues are marked by a long bread arranged in rows and hung loose down to the chest with waves or spiral lock. In all statues, the position of the hands are always the same when they are not holding any object: The hands are joined and clasped on the chest to give impression of piety and adoration.
The artists of Mari also produced a considerable number of statues to the order of their kings, princes and other dignitaries besides those that were meant for commercial purposes. The ability and artistic genius of the artists are remarkably revealed in the sculpture of these statues. One may discern that the personal characteristics overshadow the usual similarities. For example the statue of King Lamgi-Mari differs entirely from that f King Iku-Shamagan. In the same way there is no resemblance between the statue of Nami and that of Idi-Narum, both are statesmen whose statues differ from that of Tbih-Il, the steward of the kingdom.
It is noteworthy that the Semitic-Amorite Man provided us with some statues of such exquisite sculpture as to render them among the most prized statues of the Euphrates region and Mesopotamia. Luckily, most of these statues hear the names of the represented persons on the back which is a distinctive feature of the Amorite sculpture.


Alabaster statue representing
Iku-Shamagan, King of Mari.
He is standing on a plinth, bare-footed in the attitude of adoration, the arms are joined closely on the nude chest . He is dressed in a haunakes skirt. The head is bare and bold, the beard is long, the eyes, the eye-brows are incrusted with shell, bitumen, and lapis-lazuli . A cuneiform inscription gives the name of the person. Found in the Temple of Ishtar.
Beginning of the second millennium B.C.
H. 115 cm. W. 37 cm.

Alabaster statue representing a priestess putting on a "polos", a head dress for those who are in service of the temples. Her long robe covers the whole body including the head . She is sitting on a square seat ornamented with geometrical motifs on the back and on the two sides. The eyes, and eye-brows were incrusted with shell and lapis lazuli. Found at the Temple of Ishtar. Beginning of the second millennium B.C. H. 24 cm. W. 14.2 cm.

Alabaster statue representing Ur-Nina, the leading songstress of the Temple of Ishtar. Her long wavy hair is flowing down her back. She is sitting down on a bolster and putting on a long skirt like trousers which indicates that she was not only a prima donna but also a dancer. Her black hair is still maintaining its original color. The eyes were incrusted with lapis lazuli, the chest nude, and the incomplete arms placed on the chest in a posture of adoration. Ur-Nina dedicated her statue to the Temple of Ishtar where the statue was discovered. Beginning of the Second millennium B.C. H. 25.4 cm. W. 13.5 cm.

Mosaic panel with shell elements. It is divided into three religious scenes pertaining to prayers and offerings. Each of the three scenes is separated from the other by way of a framework in the form of two parallel lines encompassing a combination of small shell lozenges all along the perimeter.
The Upper Scene: depicts an offering from a number of persons standing around a high altar.
The Middle Scene: depicting large, high altar ending with animal feet and covered with leather. A group of women are standing the alter to make sacrifices to the deities.
The Lower Scene : depicts performing of the ritual prayers.
The panel is incomplete due to the fact that the elements which compose it have been found scattered on one of the halls in the Temple of Dagon. The gaps among the persons are filled with schist fixed with bitumen. The second half of the third millennium B.C. L. 54.5 cm. H. 27 cm.



A House From Mari :

Dry clay circular architectural maquette recovered with a calxium coat. It is made up of eight rooms, each room has a door leading to a central courtyard with four doors. The maquette is surrounding with an outer round wall with one door. One of the rooms is roofed. There is a whole in the centre of the roof. The maquette has been discovered in the middle of the road between the Temple of Shamash and that of Nini-Zaza. The importance of the maquette depends largely in being an architectural style of the houses of Man. It goes back to the Pre-Sargonic era ( third millennium B.C.). 13. 54 cm. H. 27,Scm.




Last updated 26 October 2002 By Jan Joury , See References
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