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ANE – Mari / 2

Original Date
May 31, 2009

Archeological Findings at Mari

The Mari Tablets are a large group of tablets discovered by French archaeologists in the 1930’s. More than 23,000 tablets were found, which gave information about the kingdom of Mari including the customs of the Mari kingdom, as well as giving names of people who lived during that time .

Others. The largest find in Mari is the royal palace of King Zimri-Lim (Zimrilim). He was the king of Mari between c.1780 and 1760 BCE ( or 1779 to 1757 BCE.), a very prosperous time. The palace is located in the northeastern part of the city and measures approximately 258.335 square feet in size (2400 m2). It consists of nearly three hundred rooms, stores, courtyards, and a library that contained over twenty thousand cuneiform tablets.

Mari also contains many temples that are located both at the center of the site and at the outer areas. There are a series of temples along the west wall that are dedicated to the goddess Ishtar, dating from 2500 to 1800 BCE.. Theses temples, along with Votive statues and wall paintings from various structures, that include the famous Investiture of Zimri-Lim, show that Mari was an artistic center with a highly advanced style of its own and had a great influence on the surrounding regions

Zimri-Lim History. He was the son and heir of Iakhdunlim, but was forced to flee to Yamkhad when his father was assassinated by his own servants during a coup. The city was occupied by Shamshi-Adad I, the king of Assur, who put his own son Yasmah-Adad on the throne. Shortly after the death of Shamshi-Adad I, Zimrilim returned from exile and was able to oust Yasmah-Adad from power with the help of Yarimlim, the king of Yamkhad. Zimrilim ruled Mari for about twenty years, and campaigned extensively to establish his power in the neighbouring areas along the Euphrates and the Khabur valley. He extended his palace in the city, which was possibly the largest at the time, and certainly the envy of other kings. He was also active on a wider stage, and at one time (perhaps about 1764 BCE) was allied with Hammurapi in his wars against E?nunna.

Zimri-Lim’s personal life is partly known through tablets preserved in the state archive of Mari. He married Shibtu, a princess of Yakhmad, and is known to have had at least eight daughters through various wives. Several of his daughters were married to rulers of local towns, and two others are known to have become priestesses. Correspondence between the king and his daughters provides evidence that Zimri-Lim thought highly of women and considered them at least competent at making decisions, as shown when he appointed his daughter Kiru as mayor of a nearby town.

In 1757 BCE, Hammurapi conquered and sacked Mari (though it may be that the city had surrendered without a fight), despite the previous alliance. At this time Zimrilim disappears from historical view, and is presumed to have been killed.

Zimri-Lim Palace. The Zimri-Lim’s palace that was built in the most prominent location in the city its Northern side, was colossal in its scale with 260 rooms total that is known, must have been one of the most impressive monuments of its kind at the time period. One Ugarit king is known to have sent his ambassador to Mari, just so that he would see the palace and report to him, the marvels of the palace was very famous at its own time. The total complex measures approximately 200 m by 120 m. It was built between two smaller scale structures, the Ishtar temple to the SW and Ninni-zaza temple to the east side. The prominent and northerly location was probably preferred for the Northerly winds.

One major entrance is known to date: from its NE corner of the structure: it is called the North Gate which does include a prominent Gate structure, far more monumental and even symbolically important than a simple vestibule. The importance of the Gate, we will see reach its culmination in the Late Bronze and Early Iron age with a very specific building type of its own, the bit hilani.

Various units of the palace was arranged around two major courtyards. The forecourt 131 and the inner court 106. But if you look closely there is a whole hierarchy of small courtyard-halls with rooms arranged around them, so the whole palace design is really a multiplication of this idea. These two major courts were massive open spaces that served for public gathering. Forecourt 131 is approached by the North Gate, through a smaller court, which really prepares the visitor small by small the experience of the different scales of the building.

The small rectangular unit to the Northeast corner around a small court is identified as a “hostel”, with a really domestic artifact assemblage. There were kitchens in it which probably served any public feasting in this more public zone. Al Khalesi suggested that the whole unit was a massive kitchen which may have housed the servants.

Forecourt 131, measures some 48 by 32 m, a true public court, where probably the king met large groups of ambassadors, representatives, officials whatnot. It has been suggested that at least 400 people could be accommodated in this large court at a time. The local text mention the frequent gatherings the administrative personnel. It really acted as the central nexus of the Eastern half of the building complex.

Reconstruction of a 2nd Millenium palace

The forecourt 131 was paved only at the edges and not at the middle which led the excavators suggest that the so-called “the Court of the Palms” mentioned in the Mari texts where palm tress were planted must be this court and no other one. Quite possible. The room 132, which opens to the court in a very special way with a semicircular flight of stairs is suggested to be the audience chamber of the king; and it also has a brick podium at the back of it. A large number of wall paitings were recovered from this room. fragmentary but at least 5 registers of mythical religious scenes.

Al Khalesi suggested that the unit just behind this Audience chamber was a funerary complex , bit kispim, for Zimri-Lim’s kispu-cult. The location of the Audience chamber had to related to this funerary banqueting area.

To understand the general layout let us look at the main scheme of the building associated with different functions. The large unit at the North East side with the gate and the structures around the forecourt form the Reception wing where the king met his officials and visitors etc. The inner court acted like a circulation area, while the North west wing was identified as the housing for thr high officials, occupying the Northern and Western side of the Inner court. While to the South wing especially to the west is the residence of the king. Finally to the southeast, archaeologists identified a temple with its own separate entrance from outside the complex through the western wall.

The badly preserved Southeastern triangular section was probably workshops and artisanal quarters, since some metalworking tools and related texts were found. Just to the West of it in the most orderly planned section of the building was the storage unit, with a square hall with loading and unloading and regularly arranged 21 rooms on either side of a long corridor.

Coming to the most important section of the palace for us perhaps is the Inner Court 106, which was accessible only through the forecourt by means of a dog-leg passage. This was the heart of the palace, which is understood from the elaboration in the building of the whole section, especially the spectacular set of wall paintings found on its walls. This area was obviously reserved for high ranking officials of the king or high visiting elites. Just to the south of it lay the spectacular double throne room suite.

In the south wall of the court, the famous panel called the “Investiture of Zimri-lim” is found in situ in excellent condition. Gypsum plaster painting. A truly international style brought together, with Egyptian, Eastern Mediterranean, and even Aegean influence. With the possibility of trade such interconnections was now possible at the heart of this city. There are one striking differences in the style of paintings themselves too.

Coronation of the king

The investiture scene depicts in two registers the king invested with power by the god Ishtar in the presence of other deities. The whole scene is then framed by mythical animals and palm trees. There was another set of paintings in a more fragmentary state found with a procession of officials.

South of the court, two longitudinal halls, really monumental stood. In the first hall Room 64, was a large podium set against the south wall opposite the doorway, with a limestone casing painted to imitate marble. The fine statues of a goddess was found partly in this room and partly in the basin.


ANE Articles from Theophyle's English Blog - Ancient Near East

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