The sarcophagus of Ahiram is hosted by the National Museum of Beirut of which it is one of the major pieces. Dating back to the early 1st millennium BC. J.C., and intended to receive the remains of Ahiram, King of Byblos, this sarcophagus, composed of a block of limestone, contains an inscription that is the oldest example written using the Phoenician alphabet on its lid Photo credit: François el Bacha, all rights reserved.

The sarcophagus of Ahiram, king of Byblos is hosted by the National Museum of Beirut, of which it is one of the major pieces.

Dating from the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. J.-C., and intended to receive the body of Ahiram, this sarcophagus is composed of a block of limestone. It features an inscription which is the oldest example written using the Phoenician alphabet on its lid.

“Sarcophagus made by Ithoba’al, son of Ahiram, king of Byblos, for Ahiram, his father, as a dwelling place in eternity. And if a king among kings, a governor among governors and a leader of an army pitch camp against Byblos and open this sarcophagus, may the scepter of his power be broken, may the throne of his royalty be thrown down and the peace and quiet escape from Byblos. As for him, his memory will be erased from the mouth of the Beyond. »

Despite this curse, the sarcophagus will be violated around the 8th and 7th centuries BC.

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Also on this lid, we can see 4 crouching lions seeming to protect the royal remains on its sides and 2 figures carrying flowers on its external face. Visitors to the National Museum can also guess remnants of red paintings.

Exhumed in 1923 by the French archaeologist Pierre Montet in the royal necropolis of the city of Byblos, its 4 faces are engraved with bas-reliefs of Assyrian influence.

On the 2 longest sides, we can see the king seated on his throne surrounded by sphinxes, further proof of an Egyptian influence. Before him a table and bearers bringing offerings.

On the opposite side, we can see a funeral procession.

On the smaller sides, female figures including mourners. On the small right side, a second Phoenician inscription is visible:

“Sarcophagus which Ithobaal, son of Ahiram, king of Gbl, made for Ahiram his father, as his dwelling in eternity. »

Its interest is that 21 of the 22 Phoenician letters are found for the first time. This alphabet will be at the origin of the Western alphabet.

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A sarcophagus from the Civil War

During the civil war from 1975 to 1990, the sarcophagus – which could not be moved partly because of its size and partly because of the fighting around the National Museum – was protected by a thick concrete screed whose implementation will be decided by the director of the DGA at the time, the Emir Maurice Chéhab.

It will only be removed from its protection at the beginning of the 1990s, once calm has returned.

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