Students and a conservator working in Tomb 8, one of the elite mausoleums of the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2500 B.C.), on the Acropolis, Umm el-Marra, Syria, 2006. Photograph courtesy Glenn Schwartz
The commitment to archaeological exploration in the Near East has long been an integral part of the mission of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. Umm el-Marra is located in western Syria on an east-west trade route linking Aleppo and the Mediterranean with Mesopotamia. First excavated by a Belgian team in the 1970s, work on the site is currently being conducted by a joint expedition of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Amsterdam that began in 1994 under the direction of Glenn M. Schwartz and Hans H. Curvers. The Museum provided support for the excavations at Umm el-Marra from 2006 to 2010.
Founded about 2700 B.C., the city of Umm el-Marra flourished until about 2100 B.C., when a period of urban collapse affected it and other cities of the region. Occupation resumed in the Middle Bronze Age around 1900 B.C., and the last major occupation was in the Late Bronze Age when Umm el-Marra became part of the Mitannian and then the Hittite Empires.
In 2000, excavators discovered the first tomb in a large complex of burials dating from the mid- to late third millennium B.C. that has yielded metal weapons and gold, silver, and lapis jewelry and other rich furnishings. Currently, finds from the site are stored in the National Museum in Aleppo, and plans are under way to display the highlights in a new showcase.