First Published: 2005-03-02

 
Why had Mesopotamians built Mari?
 

French archeologist solves mystery of ancient Mesopotamian city purpose-built in desert for metallurgical industry.

 

Middle East Online

By Annick Benoist - PARIS

The revelation of Mari was the existence of major centre of metallurgy

The mystery of an ancient Mesopotamian city has finally been lifted after 25 years of meticulous work by a French archaeologist who has revealed it was one of the first "modern cities", purpose-built in the desert for the manufacture of copper arms and tools.

In a new book entitled "Mari, the Metropolis of the Euphrates", Jean-Claude Margueron said the third millennium BC city, in modern day Syria, was "one of the first modern cities of humanity. Created from scratch in one phase of construction with the specific goal of becoming this metallurgical centre."

This was an astounding concept for the period when cities developed from villages or trading posts and showed that the Mesopotamians were way ahead of their time in terms of urban design and development.

"How could a city develop in the third millennium BC in the middle of the desert, in a region devoid of copper and in a valley devastated by the floods of the Euphrates making any agriculture very risky?"

In an interview with AFP, Margueron, 70, repeated the question which haunted him during the decades of excavations of Mari, discovered in 1933 by his predecessor Andre Parrot.

In 1935, the temple of Ishtar, the statue of King Lamgi Mari, then the Grand Palace of the second millennium, and other temples and fabulous sculptures were discovered, followed by the living areas and a part of the third millennium palace.

When Margueron took over as director of excavations in 1979, most of the spectacular pieces had already been discovered. But the question remained: Why had they built Mari?

To rediscover the city, Margueron spent thousands of hours examining the basements, the terraces, the living quarters, traces of streets, and the surrounding areas - the former river bed of the Euphrates and other waterways.

"So they were discoveries, not always spectacular, rarely immediately important, but very significant for the overall understanding of the site and its integration in the geographical, historical and economic context," said Margueron.

"The" revelation of Mari - spread over a dozen years but unpublished until now - was the existence of a major centre of metallurgy, dating from 2,900 BC.

"In fact the metallurgy was everywhere in the city. It was the existence of this lucrative activity - Mari produced arms and tools - which justified everything which we had found previously," said Margueron.

A major navigable canal was discovered which followed the Euphrates river for 120 kilometres (75 miles) and allowed the transport of copper and wood from the Tauras mountains of modern Turkey to support the metallurgical activities of Mari.

They also discovered an irrigation channel which allowed agricultural production in an area which otherwise did not receive sufficient rainfall to grow crops. A third canal protected the city from flooding and allowed large boats to enter the city which was also protected by a levy bank and double ramparts.

"The builders of Mari knew the profits they could make from a economic hub between the south of Mesopotamia and the north, between the east and the Mediterranean.

"The innumerable riches of the archaeological discoveries made during these excavations shows they were right."

 

Essebsi wins Tunisia election to become first freely elected President

Barzani in Mount Sinjar after end of jihadist siege

U-turn: Qatar pledges 'full support' to Sisi's Egypt

UAE blames 'irresponsible' non-OPEC output for oil price plunge

Arts Canteen London presents Attab Haddad: Iraqi oud with a western twist

Erdogan slams birth control as ‘treason’ against Turkey ambitions

Hollande urges ‘utmost vigilance’ after brutal weekend attacks in France

Turkey graft scandal: Four ex-ministers await decision on their fate

Berlin seeks to set up trauma centre for IS rape victims

Syria claims downing of Israeli reconnaissance drone

Rafah border crossing reopens for two days

Israel parliament approves funding for settler tourism plan

Five jihadists killed in clashes with Egypt police

Essebsi claims victory in Tunisia presidential poll

Coalition targets ‘Islamic State’ in areas north of Aleppo

Libya Islamist-backed government urges foreigners to return to Tripoli

Palestinians enter Egypt as Rafah crossing reopens for two days

Davutoglu accuses EU of 'dirty campaign' against Turkey

Raid on terrorists accidentally kills Saudi youth in Awamiya town

Egypt sentences ‘spy for Israel’ to ten years in prison

Jordan ends eight-year moratorium on death penalty

Egypt President removes powerful spy chief

Tunisia votes for president in final leg of democratic transition

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004