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Convoy Matn Support Dr. Kamil Al Khoury

Convoy Matn Support Dr. Kamil Al Khoury

About Lebanon


The National Museum of Beirut is a must on every visitor's itinerary as it contains priceless items of different civilizations and examples of the earliest alphabetical writings. The museum houses today collections from the Prehistoric era, Bronze and Iron age, Hellenistic period, Roman period, Byzantine period, and Arab conquest Mamluk period. Visitors today can discover 1,300 archeological artifacts spread over two floors. Priceless large stone artifacts are confined to the ground floor which exhibits 75 large stone objects from sarcophagi, statues, mosaics, stelae . . . The hall in the basement houses the large Ford Collection of 27 anthropoid sarcophagi.

The museum's story goes back to the 1920's when a central collection point was needed for archaeological finds. Work on the handsome building, designed in a neo-pharaonic style, was begun in 1930 and completed in 1937. When it opened in May 1943 it displayed antiquities from excavations in Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre. Further discoveries around the country added more material and over the next three decades the museum served as one of Lebanon's most important cultural institutions.
When hostilities broke out in 1975 action was taken to protect the priceless collections. Large objects such as sarcophagi were covered in reinforced concrete. Other antiquities were either removed for safekeeping or walled up in the basement. Mosaics were protected with plastic and layered with cement. Despite these precautions, the museum building was badly damaged and much of its collection suffered from neglect and salt water corrosion. Reopening of the museum took place in 1997 and is now open to the public. They have survived 6000 years of war, natural disasters and the ravages of time.

The masterpiece of the museum, is the Sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos, discovered in the royal necropolis of Byblos. It is characterized by the reliefs and inscription decorating it. The Phoenician inscription dates back to the 10th century, which is to date the oldest known Phoenician text ever discovered. The Phoenicians spread this alphabetic script all over the Mediterranean which earned them the reputation, among the Greeks of
having invented the alphabet. This inscription was meant to shy away malediction and frighten tomb robbers. The inscription starts on the coffin tub and continues on the cover:
Coffin which Itthobaal son of Ahiram, king of Byblos, made for Ahiram his father, when he placed him for eternity. Now, if a king among kings, or a governor among governors or a commander of an army should come up against Byblos and uncover this coffin, may the sceptre of his rule be torn away, may the throne of his kingdom be overturned and may peace flee from Byblos. And as for him, may his inscription be effaced...
Traces of red paint also can still be seen. On the long sides of the coffin, a funerary banquet scene is depicted showing the king seated on his throne receiving offerings from a long procession of people. On the narrow sides, women wailing in sign of mourning are represented.


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