REmy Boucharlat

Saving 20 years of excavations at Susa

online publication


The aim of our project is to publish Roland de Mecquenem’s archives on the excavations he directed in Susa from 1912 to 1914 and from 1922 till 1939. I would incline to entitle our proposal ‘Saving 20 years of excavations at Susa’. This project derives from the deep wish and interest of several people, historians and archaeologists, to make R. de Mecquenem’s archives understandable then available by publication for everyone interested in the ancient Near Eastern history and archaeology.

The remains of the ancient city of Susa are situated in the northwestern part of the Khuzestan plain in Iran. In 1852, the British archaeologist W. K. Loftus, who sank then the first trial trenches, identified the site. From 1884 till 1886, Marcel and Jane Dieulafoy introduced French excavations in Susa, and in 1897, Jacques de Morgan headed the first of the annual excavations conducted by the French Archaeological Mission. These archaeologists brought to light the historical importance of the site, almost continually occupied from prehistoric times till the 1st mill. AD. As a bridge between two worlds, the Mesopotamian plain and the Iranian plateau, the city reached indeed on several occasions the status of a capital during, among others, the Elamite periods and the Achaemenid one.

In 1912, Roland de Mecquenem succeeded J. de Morgan and directed the excavations till 1946, except during the two world wars. For more than three decades, his contribution to the knowledge of Susa was sizeable. During this period, he increased trenches all over the main mounds of Susa (the so-called ‘Acropolis’, ‘Apadana’, ‘Ville Royale’ and ‘Donjon’) and he uncovered layers from the first occupation stages to the Muslim ones. Unfortunately, he inherited from Morgan’s excavations’ methods, avoiding, at least for the first years, any stratigraphic considerations and ignoring precise locations. In addition, as he didn’t recognize any mud bricks architectural structures, he was mostly persuaded to uncover necropolis. Indeed, after reading his publications, it appears that the possibilities of intrusions in more ancient stages of occupations didn’t occur to him. Because of all these lacks, and despite of their crucial importance, the use of Roland de Mecquenem’s publications may often be discouraging.


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