The National Museum of Beirut is the principal museum of archaeology in Lebanon. The collection was begun after World War I, and the museum was officially opened in 1942. The museum has collections totaling about 100,000 objects, most of which are antiquities and medieval finds from excavations undertaken by the Directorate General of Antiquities. About 1300 artifacts are exhibited, ranging in date from prehistoric times to the medieval Mamluk period.
During the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, the museum stood on the front line that separated the warring factions. The museum’s Egyptian Revival building and its collection suffered extensive damage in the war, but most of the artifacts were saved by last-minute preemptive measures.
Today, after a major renovation, the National Museum of Beirut has regained its former position, especially as a leading collector for ancient Phoenician objects.
The National Museum of Beirut currently exhibits 1300 artifacts from its collection of approximately 100,000 objects. The museum displays follow a chronological circuit beginning in Prehistory and ending in the Ottoman era. The circuit begins on the ground floor where 83 large objects are displayed, these include sarcophagi, mosaics statues and reliefs. The upper floor displays 1243 small and medium-sized artifacts arranged by chronological order and by theme in modern showcases with soft lighting and magnifying glasses that emphasize the aesthetic aspect of the artifacts.
Ahiram Sarcophagus and the Alphabet
Ahiram or, more correctly, Ahirom was a Phoenician king of Byblos (ca. 1000 BC.) Ahirom is not attested in any other Ancient Oriental source. He became famous only by his Phoenician inscribed sarcophagus which was discovered in 1923 by the French excavator Pierre Montet in tomb V of the royal necropolis of Byblos. He was succeeded by his son Ittobaal who is the first to be explicitly entitled King of Byblos. Read more
The largest collection of anthropoid sarcophagi in the world
Characteristic of Phoenician funerary art from the 5th century BC, these sarcophagi are the fruit of different influences. The beginnings were Egyptian: the cartonnage mask placed over the mummy’s face in the late 3rd millennium BC was gradually extended to cover the whole body, thus creating the sarcophagus, which in the 26th Dynasty (663-525 BC) began to be carved from stone. The appearance of the first Phoenician sarcophagi in the early 5th century BC is certainly related to the conquest of Egypt and the looting of the necropolises of Memphis and Saqqara by the Persian army in 525; among the troops were Phoenicians (from Tyre, Sidon, and Arados), Ionian Greeks, and Cypriots. Read more
Tomb of Tyre
This tomb richly decorated with frescoes was accidentally discovered in 1937 in Burj el-Shemali, about 3Km from Tyre in an ancient necropolis area. It is a remarkable example of funerary art from the Roman period.
In 1939, the archaeologist Maurice Dunand undertook excavations inside the tomb. At the end of the same year, the architect Henry Pearson dismantled the frescoes from the original walls with their mortar and restored them in the basement of Beirut National Museum. Read more
The National Museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm, except on Mondays.
Beirut, Damascus Road, Phone: 01 426 703