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Archaeologists believe they have found the lost city of Natounia

A study suggests that one of the main centers of the Parthian Empire, which was only known from ancient coins, could be located in the current region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The mountain fortress of Rabana-Merquly, located in the current territory of Kurdistan Iraqi, could be the lost city of Natounia, whose existence was only known thanks to ancient coins, according to a study by a team of archaeologists.

The extinct city was part of the Parthian Empire, a warlike people settled in Iran and Mesopotamia 2,000 years ago, as well as one of the many ancient Middle Eastern cities that have been lost to time.

According to research, published in the magazine Antiquity, the Rabana-Merquly fortress was once an important regional center. The characteristics of the place coincide with the descriptions found in seven examples of bronze coins from an ancient city called Natounissarokerta or Natounia to which the researchers had access.

In addition, the rock reliefs at the entrance of the fortress are similar to the image of a king depicted in a statue found in Hatra, a place rich in finds from the Parthian era located about 230 kilometers away.

“If it was a real person and not an ancestor of the same name, he was undoubtedly a king of great historical importance”, commented to The National the director of the study, Michael Brown, of the Institute of Prehistory, Protohistory and A Archeology of the Near East from the University of Heidelberg (Germany). He added that the reliefs have a special meaning and may represent the founder of the city.

A drone mapping of the site, as well as the excavations, carried out in 2009 and between 2019 and 2022, they allowed the team to find numerous structures, including military barracks and a religious complex that may have been dedicated to Anahita, the Persian goddess of water, fertility, health, and healing.

“The settlement is strategically located on the edge of the mountains, so it undoubtedly played an important role in controlling the surrounding lands”, added the archaeologist.

In addition, it could have been used to trade with cattle tribes or maintain diplomatic relations. “The significant efforts were taken in the planning, construction, and maintenance of a fortress of this size point to government activities,” Brown said.


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