Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hama: Forgotten Queen of Assyria

Who was Hama, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Adad-nerari?  Very little is known about either Hama or her husband, Shalmaneser IV (r. 783–773 BC).  We conjecture that Hama's husband succeeded one brother and was himself succeeded by another.  However, this was a period of turmoil, of weak central government, and palace intrigue was at its zenith.  Courtiers held power, and Shalmaneser IV's reign was dominated by the powerful Field Marshall, Samsi-ilu, and the Palace Herald, Bel-Harran-belu-usur. The Assyrian Empire was systematically weakened by plague and civil war, and there were rumours that the royal family was murdered due to internal dissatisfaction with the monarchy.  

From an article in USA Today
In a crumbling Middle Eastern palace, a woman’s coffin lay undisturbed for millennia, her remains surrounded by treasure and protected by an ancient curse. Now scientific sleuthing has revealed her identity: she was Hama, queen of an empire.
Hama died young, and perhaps suddenly, hinting at why she was interred in a bronze coffin rather than the usual stone sarcophagus. She was no more than 20, but the gold crowns and other riches in her grave signal her power and wealth.
Seal of Hama
Hama was entombed near other queens at the sprawling Northwest Palace in the Assyrian capital of Nimrud, near present-day Mosul. Discovered by Iraqi archaeologists nearly 30 years ago, Hama’s coffin held a breathtaking array of riches, including chunky gold anklets, a beautifully worked gold jug and jeweled rings.
Amid the hoard was the nearly complete skeleton of a short, slender woman. On her head was a delicate gold crown depicting pomegranates, flowers and female winged genies. By her side was a gold stamp seal like those used to stamp documents. The script on it read in part, “Belonging to Hama, queen of Shalmaneser.”
Near Hama’s coffin was a tablet written with a curse warning, “Anyone later who removes my throne … may his spirit receive no bread!” But the curse, which was installed for another queen, didn’t stop Islamic State fighters. They blew up part of the Northwest Palace with barrel bombs in 2015 and wrecked Mosul’s museum, which held Hama’s bronze coffin.

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