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One of the most important cities in the ancient world of the western bank of the Euphrates. In the temple of Mari, dating from the third millennium before Christ, dedicated to Ishtar (the principal goddess of the Assyro-Babylonian pantheon), some thirty statuettes were recovered, amongst the one of a king: Longi Mari.

The most important discovery in Mari is that of the palace of Zimri-Lim, king of Mari from 1782 to 1759 BC, a dwelling consisting of some three hundred rooms, courtyards, stores and containing above all a library stacked with twenty thousand cuneiform tablets. Underneath the Royal Palace of Zimri-Liman other palace was discovered dating back to the first half of the 3rd millennium 2350 BC Even deeper two royal residences have been founded dating back to the 3rd millennium.

Set at the crossroads of the Syrian and Mesopotamian worlds, Mari was an important cultural center in the Mesopotamian tradition, as can be seen from its artistic works, even if Mari’s artists did develop their own specific style.

In about the year 2400 B.C., Mari was the capital of what was considered one of the most important kingdoms in Syria. The city was destroyed in about 1760 B.C., however, by Hamurabi, a powerful neighboring Babylonian monarch.

There had been many excavation attempts before that fateful day in August 1933 when a group of Bedouins who were looking for stones discovered a statue weighing nearly three hundred kilos. This chance incident in fact led to Mari being rediscovered. A great capital was to be uncovered, a whole civilization brought to light. The digs were intensified and the site was identified and the site was identified.

In a third millennium temple devoted to Ishtar (the main goddess in the Assyrian-Babylonian Pantheon) thirty or so statuettes were found, including a statuette of the king Lamgi-Mari, whose inscription enabled specialists to identify Tal Hariri as the ancient city of Mari. In court n° 20the statuette of Ebih II was found along with some beautiful mural paintings. Over the tears, some extraordinary discoveries have been made, notably the Palace of Zimri-Lim, king of Mari from 1782 to 1759 B.C. This palace consisted of about three hundred rooms, courtyards, shops and above all, a library stacked with twenty thousand cuneiform tablets.

Another palace was discovered beneath the Palace of Zimri-Lim dating this time from the first half of the third millennium (the period before 2350, known as the pre-Sargonid period). Even deeper still, three royal residences have been found one on top of the other - also dating back to the third millennium (now five thousand years ago).

In the Mesopotamian temples dating from the time of the ancient dynasties (phases 2 and 3-2800 to 2340 B.C.), numerous praying third statuettes were made to go in sanctuaries devoted to the protecting divinities. Their (usually) clasped hands evoke prayer in order to perpetuate the act of devotion. In spite of variations, the statuettes are mostly made according to the same criteria: they represent the believer (man or woman), are generally made out of stone, although a few are made out of metal or alabaster (local stone), their height caries from a few centimeters to a meter.

Either seated or standing, they are dressed in a kind of sheep or goat’s hair skirt called Kaunakes, which men usually wore like a skirt and women as a tunic that covered the whole body, sometimes with one shoulder bare. The eyes are made from shell and lapis lazuli set in bitumen, their hair is long and the top of their heads shaved.

Thanks to the inscriptions on some of the statuettes, different people have been identified and their function ascertained. It should be specified that these statuettes only began to appear during the final period of the ancient dynasties (third millennium). Only the male figures found in Mari bear inscriptions: the females remain anonymous.

These men and women belonged to the upper echelons of the social hierarchy and held top positions in the government (kings, princes, like Lamgi-Mari, the king of Mari) or the clergy (the priestesses represented by the female Mari statuettes. If visitors do not have enough time to travel this far down the Euphrates to Mari (only a protected zone is accessible to the public), they should nonetheless try to discover and admire the museum remains of this early period which best transmit what Mari was like five thousand years ago. It is not the same seeing them in their original setting, but it is a good start. In the Damascus national museum, statues of King Iku Shmagan can be seen, along with the statues of the great singer of the Ur Nina temple and terracotta tablets inscribed with syllabic cuneiform Akkadian-Babylonian characters.

In the Aleppo museum are the statues of the kings Ishtup Illum and Lamgi-Mari, of the goddess with the overflowing vase, and the bronze lion the guarded the entrance to the Dagan temple.

The Louvre in Paris also exhibits Mari art works including mural paintings from the second millennium B.C. representing scenes of investiture, sacrifices, the gathering of dates, the two goddesses with overflowing vases, symbolic animals and stylized trees. The statue of the Mari Ebih-el intendant, the head of Ishtar, an eagle and a shell mosaic panel can also be seen

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