Mari (mäˈrē) [key], ancient city of Mesopotamia (modern Syria). It is on the middle Euphrates, south of its junction with the Habor (Khabur). The site was discovered by chance in the early 1930s by Arabs digging graves and has subsequently been excavated by the French. The earliest evidence of habitation goes back to the Jemdet Nasr period in the 3d millennium B.C., and Mari remained prosperous throughout the early dynastic period. The temple of Ishtar and other works of art show that Mari was at this time an artistic center with a highly developed style of its own. As the commercial and political focus of W Asia c.1800 B.C., its power extended over 300 mi (480 km) from the frontier of Babylon proper, up the Euphrates, to the border of Syria. The inhabitants were referred to as Amorites in the Old Testament and spoke a language related to the Hebrew of the patriarchs. The archives of the great King Zimri-lim, a contemporary of Hammurabi in the 18th cent. B.C., were discovered in 1937. They contain over 20,000 clay documents, which have made it possible to fix the dates of events in Mesopotamia in the 2d millennium B.C. Also found at Mari is the great palace complex of Zimri-lim consisting of more than 200 rooms and covering 5 acres (2 hectares). Hammurabi conquered Mari c.1700 B.C., and Babylon then became the center of W Asia. Mari never regained its former status.
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