LONDON: An archaeological breakthrough in Iraqi Kurdistan has led researchers to discover the ruins of what could be the lost ancient city of Natounia, Sky News has reported.
The city once served as a major urban center of the Parthian Empire, which sprawled across Mesopotamia about 2,000 years ago.
But no direct evidence of the city has been found, with its existence only hinted at on several ancient coins.
Following a decade of study, researchers from the Directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan, together with Dr. Michael Brown of Germany’s Heidelberg University, say that the established fortification site of Rabana-Merquly could house the ruins of Natounia.
The research, published in the journal “Antiquity,” details how excavation work conducted between 2009 and 2022 at the Rabana-Merquly fortress revealed well-preserved buildings hidden underground.
Researchers discovered a temple-like building that appears to have been used for water worship, suggesting a link with the ancient Iranian goddess Anahita.
The worship of Anahita was associated with fertility, healing and good health, according to classical accounts of the region.
The full name of Natounia, Natounissarokerta, contains the name of its ruler, Natounissar, the founder of the Adiabene royal dynasty. It also includes the Parthian word for fortification.
And as a result, that title “could apply to Rabana-Merquly,” Brown said.
He added that inscriptions at the entrance to the fortress could depict Natounissar or a relative, because of similar imagery discovered about 230 km away elsewhere in another Parthian site.
Brown said: “The considerable effort that must have gone into planning, building and maintaining a fortress of this size points to governmental activities.”