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Real-life 'Helm's Deep' found in the form of an ancient lost city

The lost city of Natounia is believed to have been found at the site of the Rabana-Merquly stronghold in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Published Jul 20, 2022 7:32 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Aug 12 2022 4:01 AM CDT

A study on the city titled "Rabana-Merquly: a fortress in the kingdom of Adiabene in the Zagros Mountains" has been published in the journal Antiquity.

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An international team of archaeologists has uncovered the ruins of what they believe to be the lost city of Natounia in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. The 2000-year-old stronghold known as Rabana-Merquly is believed to be the lost city of Natounia, based on intricate rock carvings depicting leaders found at the site. Also known as Natounissarokerta, the city has only been known to exist on depictions on coins dating back to the first century B.C.

"Rabana-Merquly is by far the largest and most impressive site of the Parthian era in the region, and the only one with royal iconography, so it's by far the best candidate [for being Natounia]. Its fortifications enclose naturally defensible terrain and can be viewed as an extension of the surrounding highland landscape. If you're familiar with Lord of the Rings, it's basically a real-life Helm's Deep," study lead researcher Michael Brown, a researcher at the Institute of Prehistory, Protohistory and Near-Eastern Archaeology of Heidelberg University in Germany, told Live Science in an email.

Entrances to the city are found at Rabana and Merquly, with intricate art present at both sites. The Rabana-Merquly fortress was part of the Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, that reigned between 247 B.C. and A.D. 224 and warred with the Roman Empire. The new finds at the site suggest that Rabana-Merquly could have been one of the Parthian Empire's regional hubs.

"Based on the dress of the figure, in particular his hat, we think that the fortress was built by the ruling dynasty of Adiabene close to the kingdom's eastern border. The twin rock reliefs are rare examples of near life-size monuments of rulers from the Parthian period, and they allow us to link the fortress with those who built it," said Brown.

You can read more from the study here.

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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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