In archaeological terms, palaces are distinguished from large private residences and temples. They differ from the former by their greater size and number of rooms and by stricter measures of security reflected in the plan of the buildings. The distinction between temples and palaces is less clear-cut in the prehistoric periods, but from the third millennium B.C. onward, certain architectonic features (e.g., niches and shallow buttresses) are typically found in temples rather than palaces.
   Since the function of a palace in Mesopotamia was that of not simply a royal residence and a very large household but also an administrative center, such diverse functions were accommodated around separate courtyards surrounded by a suite of rooms. There was also a division between the public and private sector. Reception areas, such as the throne room, were protected by a complex route of access and could be splendidly appointed with glazed tiles (as in the palaces of Nebuchadrezzar II in Babylon), wall reliefs (as in the Neo-Assyrian palaces), or wall paintings (as in DurKurigalzu). One of the best-known Mesopotamian palaces is the one built by Zimri-Lim at Mari. There is evidence of careful planning before construction began, as can be seen by the subterranean drainage channels. There was one very large and several smaller courtyards. The circulation system allowed for tight supervision. This palace, like various others in Assyria, had its own archive, which detailed the substantial economic activities of the palace, as well as the diplomatic correspondence and the administration of the kingdom. It is probable that most of the rooms as found in excavations were for storage purposes and that residential quarters and offices were located on upper-floor levels. Evidence for the existence of such upper stories is generally indirect (stairwells, thickness of walls, lighting provisions, and the amount of rubble found within ground-floor rooms).
   Palaces in the first millennium B.C., especially in Assyria, also had pleasure gardens and parkland within their perimeter walls.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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