Thursday, Feburary 11, 2010
The question “how big was the palace and how many rooms did it have?” Would seem straight forward enough, but isn’t really all that easy to answer. Malqata is often called a “Palace Complex” because it consisted of more than just one building. The greater palace covers an area of about 80 acres and includes several palaces, workshops, kitchens, offices, store rooms and other facilities necessary to supply the king and his court.
When people think of the Palace at Malqata they generally think of what has been called “the Palace of the King,” but even that is hard to define. It is a long rectangular structure, which is about 450 feet long by over 50 feet wide. There are approximately 60 rooms within the building itself, which include pillared halls, store rooms, throne rooms and even a bedroom for the king.
Some of the rooms were beautifully decorated with mural paintings on the floors, walls and ceilings and many of these were found during the Metropolitan Museum’s excavations. Like an Egyptian temple, the decoration evokes the natural world with ponds and marshes painted on the floor and flying birds represented on the ceiling.
Even the storerooms were decorated with paintings of tables laden with food. If you go the Met’s website and open the collection database, you can see some of this decoration, including the ceiling painting below (http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections?ft=Malqata).
Wooden columns carved and painted to look like palm trees held up the ceiling and light came through windows in which were set intricately carved wooden screens. However, except for the bases of the columns, which were carved of limestone, all the other materials used in the palace construction: wood, mud brick, mud plaster deteriorated easily. Now the preservation and recording of the palaces and other structures at the site is a critical priority.