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"The" revelation of Mari - spread over a dozen years but unpublished until now - was the existence of a major centre of metallurgy, dating from 2,900 BC.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

 

World leaders condemn Britain terror attack

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings

Erdogan warns Europeans risk being ‘unsafe’ on world’s streets

Saudi film festival launch postponed after sandstorm

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgium’s Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

EU summons Turkey envoy over 'safety' remarks

400,000 'trapped' in west Mosul's Old City

Qaeda, IS developing harder-to-detect bombs say experts

Terrorist attack at London’s Houses of Parliament

2016 saw sharp rise in illegal Israeli settlement projects

US-led coalition vows lasting victory against IS

Bahrain arrests photographer on unspecified charges

Humanitarian groups demand access to Yemen civilians suffering 'open-air massacre'

33 killed in US-led air strike on north Syria

Rights group says Libyan military committed war crimes

Israel seals East Jerusalem home of Palestinian attacker's family

Migrants in Europe at risk of drug-resistant tuberculosis

Iraqis urged to avoid hurried mass grave exhumations

Turkey steps up objection to US flight laptop ban

Britain joins US in banning laptops on flights from Turkey, Arab world

Anti-IS coalition gathers in Washington to hear Trump plan

Turkey links Gulen to murder of Armenian journalist

Kuwait bans hit movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Five dead in Mogadishu bombing

Khamenei fleshes out 'Made in Iran' vision

Turkey to ask US to reverse flight laptop ban

Israeli army says Hezbollah commander killed by own men

Kurds celebrate Newroz in Turkey's southeast despite shooting

Turkey’s AKP says no more campaign rallies in Germany

Chinese president calls for peace in meeting with Netanyahu

Iraq forces gain ground in Mosul

US bans electronic devices from cabins on Middle East flights

Erdogan says yes vote best response to 'fascist Europe'

Arab Israeli woman gets 50 months prison for joining IS

All Syria sides confirm attendance at Geneva talks