MECQUENEM, ROLAND DE, born 1877 in Orlèans, d. 1957, French archeologist, director of the excavations of the Mission Archèologique de Susiane at Susa from 1913 to 1946, discoverer and excavator of Tchoga Zambil, where he carried out four excavation campaigns starting in 1935 (see ČOḠĀ ZANBIL).
Like J. de Morgan, his predecessor as the head of the Susa excavations, de Mecquenem had been trained as an engineer at the Ecole des Mines, and thus was more prepared for geology than for archeology. J. de Morgan took him to Persia in 1903 with the aim of diversifying his scientific activities. There he started studying the fossil deposits of Maragha (Marāḡa) in Azerbaijan in 1904, but he soon became primarily involved with the archeological team working at Susa. Acquiring more and more importance within the mission, he logically assumed the leadership of the excavations after J. de Morgan resigned in 1912. He was first appointed as co-director of the Mission Archèologique de Susiane, along with Father J.-V. Scheil, who was more specifically in charge of the publications (see FRANCE xii[b].). Despite the tireless activity which de Mecquenem pursued until 1939, the excavations he directed hardly advanced the understanding of Susaδs history. He in fact continued the same working method that his predecessor had used, which consisted of bulk clearings more like removing earthworms than conducting true scientific excavations. He was mainly interested in collecting beautiful objects, most of which he sent to the Louvre Museum, and in finding inscriptions, without trying to provide a detailed stratigraphic study of the site. Not until about 1935 did he manage to recognize the architectural remains in unbaked brick. The only structures previously excavated had been tombs of various periods.
Roland de Mecquenem explored the four main mounds of Susa, including that of the “City of Artisans,” the works on which he entrusted to J. M. Unvala, who mainly excavated Parthian and Sasanian burial sites, as well as Islamic buildings. The exploration of the Apadāna hill, on which J. de Morgan had worked since the 1907 campaign, continued until 1926. De Mecquenem finished clearing and studying the palace of Darius and also delved into lower levels. In several places, he reached virgin soil situated at a depth of 8 to 11 meters, just below the layers of the Uruk period. On the Acropolis mound, he continued the works begun by J. de Morgan, tirelessly enlarging the sites studied by him but without being able to alter his predecessor’s interpretations. He also worked on the mound of the Royal City, where he concentrated his main activity, particularly in the southern part, which contained a large number of sites. At the southern point of the tell, called “the Donjon,” he came across the remains of buildings dating from the Achaemenid to the Sasanid periods, which he identified as those of a palace. However, he did not manage to establish its plan, and mainly located the foundations.
All these works were published in numerous preliminary reports, as well as in the volumes of Mèmoires de la Mission Archèologique de Susiane. A synopsis of his works was published in a well-illustrated article in 1980.
P. Amiet, “La pèriode Roland de Mecquenem (1912-1946),” in N. Chevalier, ed., Une mission en Perse, Paris, 1997, pp. 162-17.
R. de Mecquenem, “Les fouilleurs de Suse,” Iranica Antiqua 15, 1980, pp. 1-47.
January 6, 2005
Originally Published: July 20, 2004
Last Updated: July 20, 2004