- Sh al-Maari New City
- tel, info: 21 221 2400
- full S£300.00, concession S£15.00, adult/student S£75/S£10
Lonely Planet review for National Museum
Aleppo's National Museum , in the middle of town opposite the tourist office, is rather nondescript apart from the extraordinary colonnade of giant granite figures that fronts the entrance. Standing on the backs of stylised creatures are wide-eyed characters, replicas of pillars that once supported the 9th-century-BC temple-palace complex at Tell Halaf, near the border with Turkey in the northeast of the country.
From the entrance hall the exhibits were displayed chronologically in an anticlockwise direction, but at the time of research the museum was undergoing extensive 'renovation', which was being conducted with scant concern for safety and little respect for the artefacts. We hope your visit will be more pleasant than our last one.
Tell Brak, 45km north of Hassake in far northeastern Syria, was excavated by Sir Max Mallowan, husband of Agatha Christie. Most of the exhibits in the Tell Brak room are finds from his digs, although many of the best pieces went to the British Museum in London.
The Mari room contains some of the museum's best pieces, unearthed at Tell Hariri, the site of the 3rd-millennium-BC city of Mari, on the Euphrates River near the present-day Iraqi border. Look for the tableaux of delicate carved-shell figurines of a general and his fettered prisoners and chariots, which attest to the high level of artistry at this early time, and the wonderful greened bronze lion with a doleful expression. Along with a twin, now in the Louvre in Paris, it was discovered flanking a temple doorway.
The exhibits of finds from excavations in 1931-38 at the Hama citadel, dating back to 1000 BC, were no longer on display at the time of research but may reappear.
Many of the finds display evidence of the links between the one-time busy port of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) and Egypt. The bronze Egyptian figures were probably gifts from a pharaoh to the king of Ugarit. An alabaster vessel bears the name of Ramses II in hieroglyphs, and there's also a limestone obelisk.
The Tell Halaf hall is dominated by figures similar to the replicas at the museum entrance; however, these are millennia old. The figures are believed to represent gods and a goddess; the central one is thought to be Haddad, the weather god, symbolically linked to the bull (on which he stands). The colossi were originally flanked by two wide-eyed sphinxes; a replica of one is here. The large panels are plaster casts of originals that once adorned Tell Halaf's palace walls - the originals were destroyed during WWII in a bombing raid on a German museum.
The astonishing collection of ivory carving was discovered in the remains of a palace at Tell Arslan Tash, an Aramaean city (ancient name Hadatu) in the northeast of the country, excavated by the French in 1928. They are not Syrian in origin and have been identified as coming from Phoenicia, and are dated to the 9th century BC. There is a series depicting the birth of the god Horus from a lotus flower, which is very similar to an alabaster carving of Tutankhamen emerging from a lotus on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Tell Ahmar is the site of another ancient Aramaean city, and is near what is now the Syrian-Turkish border, 20km south of the crossing point of Jarablos. The wall paintings displayed in this room were removed from the remains of a palace excavated by the French in the 1920s and date from around the 8th century BC.