Until now, the royal city referred to as either “Natounia on the Kapros” or “Natounissarokerta” had only been evidenced by text on just a few coins dating back to the primary century BC. Some experts think “Natounissarokerta” is a composite of “Natounissar”, the name of the founding father of the Adiabene royal dynasty — and the Parthian word for a moat of fortification. Archaeologist Dr Michael Brown of Heidelberg University said: “This description could apply to Rabana–Merquly.”
The placement of the fortress also suits, he explained, lying because it does within the catchment area of the Lower Zab River, which was known in antiquity by its Greek name: Kapros.
Dr Brown and his colleagues have been studying the stays of Rabana–Merquly, which lies on the southwest flanks of Mt. Piramagrun within the Zagros Mountains.
The stone fortress comprises not only nearly two-and-a-half miles of stone fortifications, but in addition two smaller settlements — Rabana and Merquly — after which it is called.
Given how high up the mountain Rabana–Merquly sits, mapping of the positioning was only possible because of using drones.
The team undertook a series of excavation campaigns on the fortress, starting in 2009 and continuing most recently between 2019 and 2002.
Based on the archaeologists, the structures in Rabana–Merquly which have survived into the current day suggest that the positioning had a military use.
They include the stays of several rectangular buildings that will have served as barracks.
The team also identified the stays of a spiritual complex that they consider could have been dedicated to the Zoroastrian Iranian goddess Anahita.
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Moreover, Dr Brown explained, a rock relief at the doorway to the fortress may depict town’s founder — either Natounissar himself, or one among his descendants.
The likeness portrayed on the relief, he added, also resembles one among a king that was found some 143 miles away in Hatra, a location known to be wealthy in finds from the Parthian era.
Moreover, the fortress of Rabana–Merquly is positioned on the eastern border of Adiabene, a region governed by the kings of a neighborhood dynasty who were depending on the Parthians, whose empire once prolonged over much of Iran and Mesopotamia.
Rabana–Merquly could have been used, the team said, to conduct trade with the pastoral tribes within the back country, to take care of diplomatic relations or to exert military pressure.
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Dr Brown said: “The considerable effort that will need to have gone into planning, constructing and maintaining a fortress of this size points to governmental activities.”
The team’s investigations at Rabana–Merquly are shining a lightweight on the history and settlement structures of the Parthians.
Though the annals of history record the Parthians as being a significant power, Dr Brown explained, little or no is definitely known about them.
The total findings of the study were published within the journal Antiquity.