Researchers are studying a fortress in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan that they believe may have belonged to the lost city of Netonia.
The mountain fortress of Rabana-Mirculi, in modern-day Iraqi Kurdistan, was one of the main regional centers of the Parthian Empire, which expanded across parts of Iran and Mesopotamia about 2,000 years ago.
This is the conclusion reached by a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Michael Brown, a researcher at the Institute for Prehistory, Primitive History and Near Eastern Archeology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.
Brown and his Iraqi colleagues studied the ruins of the citadel. Their work provides important insights into the settlement structures and history of the Parthians, about which little is known, Dr. Brown notes, although historical records record them as a great power.
Moreover, Rabbana-Mirculli could be the lost city of Netonia.
Where is the lost city of Netonia?
Located on the southwest sides of Piramagrun Peak in the Zagros Mountains, the stone fortress of Rabana-Merquly includes not only the nearly 4-kilometer-long fortifications, but also two smaller settlements that bear their name, according to Eurek Alert.
Due to its high position on the mountain, mapping of the site was only possible with the use of drones. During several excavations carried out since 2009 and the last between 2019 and 2022, the international team of researchers was able to study the archaeological remains at the site.
Structures that have survived to this day indicate military use and include the remains of several rectangular buildings that may have served as barracks. Researchers have also discovered a religious complex most likely dedicated to the Iranian Zoroastrian goddess Anahita.
A city not much is known about
The petroglyphs at the entrance to the fortress are of particular importance, besides the geographical location of the fortification in the catchment area of the Lower Zab, known in antiquity under the Greek name Capros.
Researchers suspect that Rabbana-Mercoli may be the lost city of Antonia. To date, the existence of the royal city known as Natounia on Kapros, or alternatively as Natounissarokerta, is documented only on a few coins dating back to the 1st century BC.
According to a scientific interpretation, the name Natounissarokerta is formed from the royal name Natounissar, founder of the ruling Adiabene dynasty, and the Parthian word for moat or fortification. “This description could also apply to Rabana merculi,” says Dr. Brown.
According to an archaeologist from the University of Heidelberg, the bas-reliefs on the walls at the entrance to the castle could depict the founder of the city, Natannezzar, or a direct descendant.
The researcher explains that the inscription resembles a king that was found 230 kilometers away in Hatra, a site rich in finds from the Parthian period.
What is the significance of the lost city of Netonia?
On the eastern frontier of Adiabene lies the mountain fortress of Rabana-Mercoli, which was once ruled by kings of a local dynasty based on the Parthians. It may have been used, among other things, to trade with pastoral tribes in rural areas, to maintain diplomatic relations, or to exert military pressure.
“The great effort he put into planning, building and maintaining a castle of this size indicates government activity,” notes Dr. Brown.
The results of the Heidelberg University investigations were published in the journal Antiquity.
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