The Excavation of the Temple of the Moon at Mârib (Yemen)
In April 1951, excavations began at the Temple of the Moon, some two miles southeast of Marib, in Yemen. Up to 121 men and boys and 60 oxen were employed at any one time in a short period up to time when excavations had to be halted due to dangerous times.
Marib was not only the capital Sabaean kingdom but it was also the site of the dam, renowned as the greatest of ancient times.
The Temple of the Moon is also called Awwam and is dedicated to the moon god Ilumquh. The temple is shaped somewhat like a kidney with an entrance court on the north side. The walls are preserved in places up to a height of 9m, but scholars are unsure as to how high the temple actually was. “It has three horizontal offsets of about 5 cm. each. The upper one is 20 courses of stone (about 5.80 m.) below the large inscription. The other two are each two courses lower. Seven courses below the lowest offset the horizontal joints are still level but the outside surface is left rough”.
The entrance hall was the only part of the temple that was excavated in 1951/2 completely as the dig was interrupted and excavations ceased. The hall is made up of a peristyle hall with a large door that leads into the temple itself and a massive triple door heading out to an external court and building centre which ended in a chain of eight huge pillars.
The south wall was of particular interest to archaeologists. It has a base course of 10 cm. thick and 26 to 29 cm and a average height of 1.52m. “This section of the wall carries a very interesting series of 64 false “windows” in imitation of lattices. The outside of the walls has similar ornamental windows but they are located approximately 70 cm. lower on the wall without any regard to the spacing of the windows on the inside. The windows measure 42 to 46 cm. wide and 1.24 in. high and are set back into the wall 10 cm. They are spaced 45 to 70 cm. apart. Above each window is a “ventilator grill” design above (lentils similar to those in the upper part of the window itself”.
A number of bronze statues were found, dating to the seventh or eighth centuries BCE. At least one shows a strong Hellenistic style made from local bronze as were the others. This may be the product of a Hellenistic artist or for someone of Hellenistic heritage, but it seems probable that the artist was a fan of Hellenistic style.
The excavation of the Temple of the Moon is of great interest to scholars; not only do they further enhance our knowledge on the architectural styles of the time, but it also tells us about the socio-economic world in ancient Mesopotamia and the relationships they had with neighbouring countries.
Albright, Frank P. (1952) The Excavation of the Temple of the Moon at Mârib (Yemen), Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, The American Schools of Oriental Research.