Thursday, February 21, 2013

History Mystery: Mari The Lost City Of Mesopotamia! -1

      When a large, headless statue was unearthed in Syria early in the 20th century, it turned out to be the first of startling series of archaeological discoveries. A palace and temples followed and soon an entire city was brought to light. TELL HARIRI lies on the west bank of the river Euphrates in Syria, 12 Km from the border with Iraq. In the early 20th century, the ruins at the site were considered to be to little interest there were scores of similar sites, or tells, throughout the lands of the Middle East. But in the 1930s, while Syria was a French mandate, a Bedouin foraging among the ruins for a suitable gravestone discovered a headless statue. The statue bore an inscription in cuneiform ancient, wedge shaped writing. Casual digging at the site was hurriedly stopped by the local authorities, and the French archaeologist Andre Parrot was sent to explore the tell. Parrot unearthed a large number of alabaster statues of the period known as early Dynastic III, most of them priests. One bearing a dedication to the goddess Ishtar was inscribed with the name of the king of Mari- a find that unlocked the secrets of the site. Tell Hariri stood on the ruins of the lost city of Mari. The name Mari had already cropped up in the records of the great Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer, discovered by earlier archaeologists. Sumer was centered on the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where great cities such as Uruk, Nippur, Eridu, and Ur flourished some 3000 years before the birth of Christ.

      Its people invented writing, and in early texts now known as the king list, they named Mari as one of the dozen or so city states struggling for supremacy between about 3000 and 2300 BC. But Tell Hariri was a long way from the known centers of Sumerian civilization and its discovery revolutionized thinking about ancient Mesopotamia. Clearly its culture had been shared by other peoples living much farther up the Euphrates than had been imagined. While working on the site in 1934, Parrot was visited by Henri Frankfort, a Duch archaeologist then exploring Tell Asmar and Khafajeh, some 400 Km to the east. His findings were strikingly similar to Parrot’s, suggesting that a single civilization spanned the entire breadth of Mesopotamia. Parrot went on to reveal the true grandeur of the ancient Mari. He discovered two royal palaces, one on which fated back to 2500 BC – the time of the Early Dynastic Period- and a haul of inscribed tablets, which helped to build up a vivid picture of the city’s history.

     Mari’s importance stemmed from its key position on the trade route linking Mesopotamia with Syria to the North West. The Sumerian settlements of the delta were rich in agricultural produce, but they needed crucial raw materials from Syria to sustain their city culture. Sumer exported corn, leather, and wool in exchange for scarce building materials such as tone and timber. Silver and lead were brought down fromm the Syrian hills to supply Sumerian metal workers. Copper came from as far away as the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor, and from Magan in the Persian Gulf. As trade expanded, military and diplomatic missions were sent to Mari to maintain links with its supply lines. During excavations of the Early Dynastic places, Andre Parrot discovered a cache of objects, including several cylindrical seals, presented to the local ruler by Mesannepadda, king of the Sumerian city of Ur. The evidence indicated that an important diplomatic mission was sent to Mari in around 2500 BC.

       Mesannepadda’s envoy was a scribe, with him, the king sent a message of friendship to Mari’s ruler, an offer of alliance, and rich gifts, including a magnificent blue Anzu bird pendant of lapis lazli imported from beyond the Iranian plateau and inscribed with the royal sender’s name. The Journey was not difficult, for Ur at that time dominated many of the other Sumerian cities and nobody would have obstructed the Caravan’s progress. As it made its way up the valley of the Euphrates, the envoy would have noticed linguistic changes. But understanding the Semitic tongue was not a problem to Sumerian scholar: Bedouin herdsmen often drove their cattle up and down the valley, and mixed freely with the city dwellers in south. Their language was understood in Ur.

     In the dry uplands of the Euphrates, Mari loomed like an oasis, irrigated by networks of canals leading off the great river. A dyke protected the city from flooding, and ramparts of unbaked brick fortified its walls. The envoy was greeted at the gates by royal officials and conducted to the newly erected palace. In the great visitors’ courtyard, the envoy awaited an audience. At the appointed time, a grouped of dignitaries arrived scribes, army officers, and relatives of the king- followed by the king himself. The king’s costume was no different from that of his entourage, consisting mainly of goatskin from waist to ankle, but he was distinguished by the arrangement of his long hair, plaited in a diadem around his head with a double bun above the nape of the neck.



  1. Going by the statues and that pendant, one can easily conclude that a great fully develoiped civilization existed around 5000 years ago. Still some historians claim that man had barley learnt to grow some crops by that time.

    Very informative post.

    1. The archeologists have come to conclusion that domestication of wild plants and animals was evolved by humans about 10000 years before now (yBP). In modern languages it is called BIOTECHNOLOGY. Of course, they - in the past - never claimed any Intellectual Property Rights to these inventions!! Also, civilization came into existence, perhaps. brought - developed by some clever brains to dominate poorer section, about 5000 years ago. Now some say 6000 yrs ago, whatever.
      Historians perhaps go by blinkered view.

  2. Hey Raj,

    Your posts are really elixir of knowledge.Terrific images supported by rich content.Wow!

  3. Very much interesting and you did a lot of research to write this blog. Thanks.

  4. Very Much informative post and done a solid hard work. Thanks.

  5. Amazing!!Such an advanced civilization at 3000bc ?All these lost cities have so much to tell.

  6. Nice blog and interesting information . Really all history are mystery.Thanks for sharing.

  7. Nice and interesting post. Really all history are mystery.Thanks to share.


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