Where: Oriental Institute 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL
Description: Lecturer: Pascal Butterlin Professor of Archaeology, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne Director of the French mission to Tell Hariri-Mari, Syria
Discovered by Parrot in 1933, Tell Hariri-Mari is one of the best-known cities of Near Eastern archaeology. The palaces and texts from this site, especially the “Mari Letters,” provide some of the most important evidence we have for the Early and Middle Bronze Age Mesopotamian world. Completely destroyed twice, once in 2310 BC and again in 1759 BC, its remains are well preserved. The 47 seasons conducted by Parrot, Margueron, and Butterlin, have produced substantial information about Mesopotamian cities during the second millennium BC. This lecture presents the highlights of those discoveries, showing the ways that our understanding of the history of the city has gradually evolved, according to the general evolution of Near Eastern archaeology.
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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 excavation
Mari 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". 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 Andre 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."
The 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>
\ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)
1: an ancient empire of Ashur
2: a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern
Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)
a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of
its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender
4: a democratic state that believes in the freedom of
religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the
principles of the United Nations Charter —
Ethnicity, Religion, Language
Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
\ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)
1: descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur
2: the Assyrians, although representing but one single
nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now
doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle
ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding
hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the
East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.
These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the
Christian Era. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians
as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church
from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly
difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for
in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control,
religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a
criterion of nationality.
the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya,
Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean,
Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu,
Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye,
Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. —
1: a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of
the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.
2: has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical
Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.