To look upon its remains [Mari, Tell Hariri] today, however, one would see a slow tragedy in the making. Its exposed walls are gradually eroding away, melting back into the natural landscape. Some of its excavated remains are now unrecognizable. The need for better general site management and conservation would be an understatement. What it really needs is urgent rescue.
So says Dan McLerran in Popular Archaeology. Actually this is from McLerran’s report of an August 2011 Global Heritage Fund assessment. In fact many sites in Syria are in trouble but none more so than Mari. Here’s what the report itself says about Mari,
Threat Level: Rescue Needed
Mari (modern Tell Hariri, Syria) was an ancient Sumerian and Amorite city on the western bank of Euphrates river, some 120 km southeast of Deir Ezzor, Syria. It is thought to have been inhabited since the 5th millennium BC, although it flourished with series of superimposed palaces that spans a thousand years, from 2900 BC until 1759 BC, when it was sacked by Hammurabi, a fate from which it never recovered. The final sack of the city led to exceptional preservation, with mosaics and even food remains preserved in situ.
Mari has been extensively excavated, although less than a third of the city has been uncovered. Parts of the palace, which originally contained over 300 rooms, have also been reconstructed. In order to preserve them, finds are removed to museums offsite. The uncovered mudbrick walls are eroding, and large parts of the excavated site are now unrecognizable. Part of the palace was roofed to protect it, but due to the size of the city, it was considered unfeasible to cover it all, and the reconstructions are also eroding.
The pictures in the report are disturbing. Even Ebla and Carchemish are at some risk. The report does not mention Ugarit.