• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

In search of the lost Parthian city of Natounia


Sep 20, 2022

The mountain fortress of Rabana-Merquly in fashionable Iraqi Kurdistan was one of many main regional centres of the Parthian Empire, which prolonged over elements of Iran and Mesopotamia roughly 2,000 years in the past. It is a conclusion reached by a workforce of archaeologists led by Dr Michael Brown, a researcher on the Institute of Prehistory, Protohistory and Close to-Japanese Archaeology of Heidelberg College. Along with Iraqi colleagues, Brown studied the stays of the fortress. Their work supplies necessary insights into the settlement buildings and historical past of the Parthians, about whom there’s surprisingly little information, emphasises Dr Brown, despite the fact that the annals of historical past file them as a serious energy. Moreover, Rabana-Merquly would be the misplaced metropolis of Natounia.

Excavation of the perimeter wall on the entrance to Rabana valley
[Credit: © Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project]

Located on the southwest flanks of Mt. Piramagrun within the Zagros Mountains, the stone fortress of Rabana-Merquly contains not solely the practically four-kilometre-long fortifications but additionally two smaller settlements for which it’s named. Due to its excessive place on the mountain, mapping the location was doable solely with drones. Throughout the framework of a number of excavation campaigns performed from 2009 and most just lately between 2019 and 2022, the worldwide workforce of researchers was capable of research the archaeological stays on website. 

In search of the lost Parthian city of Natounia
A) Rabana “sanctuary”; B) staircase; C) iron arrowheads;D) altar (scales = 1m)
(© Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Challenge) [Credit: M. Brown et al, 2022]

Constructions which have survived to today counsel a navy use and embrace the stays of a number of rectangular buildings which will have served as barracks. The researchers additionally discovered a spiritual complicated presumably devoted to the Zoroastrian Iranian goddess Anahita. The rock reliefs on the entrance to the fortress are of particular significance, together with the geographic location of the fortification within the catchment space of the Decrease Zab River, identified in antiquity by its Greek title of Kapros. 

In search of the lost Parthian city of Natounia
A) Merquly rock-relief; B) Rabana rock-relief; C) statue from Hatra of King ‘tlw/Attalos
of Adiabene (illustrations by M. Brown; © Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Challenge)
[Credit: M. Brown et al, 2022]

The researchers suspect that Rabana-Merquly would be the misplaced metropolis of Natounia. Till now, the existence of the royal metropolis referred to as Natounia on the Kapros, or alternatively as Natounissarokerta, has been documented solely on a couple of cash relationship from the primary century BC.  In line with one scientific interpretation, the place title Natounissarokerta consists of the royal title Natounissar, the founding father of the Adiabene royal dynasty, and the Parthian phrase for moat or fortification. “This description may apply to Rabana-Merquly,” states Dr Brown.

In search of the lost Parthian city of Natounia
A) Mount Piramagrun, exhibiting the placement of the principle Rabana and Merquly settlements;
B) basic plan of Rabana-Merquly (map by M. Brown; © Rabana-Merquly
Archaeological Challenge) [Credit: M. Brown et al, 2022]

In line with the Heidelberg archaeologist, the wall reliefs on the entrance to the fortress may depict town’s founder, both Natounissar or a direct descendant. The researcher explains that the aid resembles a likeness of a king that was discovered roughly 230 kilometres away in Hatra, a location wealthy in finds from the Parthian period. The Rabana-Merquly mountain fortress is positioned on the japanese border of Adiabene, which was ruled by the kings of a neighborhood dynasty depending on the Parthians. It could have been used, amongst different issues, to conduct commerce with the pastoral tribes within the again nation, preserve diplomatic relations, or exert navy stress. “The appreciable effort that should have gone into planning, constructing, and sustaining a fortress of this dimension factors to governmental actions,” stresses Dr Brown.

In search of the lost Parthian city of Natounia
Coin of Natounia, Reverse Inscription: NATOΥN / IEΩN T[ΩN] /
 ΠPOC TΩ /KAPΠΩ (Marciak 2013: 162–64)
[Credit: Trustees of the British Museum]

The present analysis in Rabana-Merquly is being funded by the German Analysis Basis as a part of precedence programme 2176, “The Iranian Highlands: Resilience and Integration of Premodern Societies.” The intention of the analysis mission is to research Parthian settlements and society within the Zagros highlands on each side of the Iran-Iraq border. Throughout the newest excavations at Rabana-Merquly, Dr Brown collaborated with colleagues from the Directorate of Antiquities in Sulaymaniyah, a metropolis within the autonomous area of Iraqi Kurdistan. The outcomes of the Heidelberg investigations have been printed within the journal Antiquity.

Source: Heidelberg University [July 20, 2022]

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