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Lord of the Rings: Archaeologists discover real-life ‘Helm’s Deep’ in ancient lost city


In what sounds like a treasure hunt movie, a collection of ancient coins have led researchers to a location that they believe hides a 2000-year-old fort in northern Iraq. A team of archaeologists, led by Michael Brown of Germany’s Heidelberg University believe they may have discovered Natounia, an ancient military and religious complex in the Zagros Mountains that dates back to more than 2,000 years ago.

In a paper published in Cambridge University’s Antiquity journal, Mr Brown described finding two settlements, a stone fortress, and other buildings, known as Rabana-Merquly, at the site of what was once the border of the ancient kingdom of Adiabene.

This kingdom paid tribute to the Parthian Empire, a major political player in Iran that lasted about 1,000 years until 224AD.

Speaking to Zenger News, Mr Brown that the ancient city was only known from inscriptions on some rare coins, which pointed to a tributary on the Lower Zab river

He added: “Regardless of its exact identification, Rabana-Merquly was undoubtedly a major regional centre on the edge of the Zagros Mountains— the fortress shows us the practicalities of territorial control in hinterland regions of empire, where state authorities interacted with semi-autonomous and often restive highland pastoralist populations.”

“The most exciting aspect of the site is definitely the natural setting.

“Rabana-Merquly is located on the western side of Mt. Piramagrun, one of the most spectacular mountains in the Zagros range, the western side of which runs through Iraqi Kurdistan.

“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 Helms Deep,” comparing it to the fictional fortress in J RR Tolkien’s novels.

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