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Espionage in favor of archeology: Alexander the Great’s lost city found in Iraq with the help of spies

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Declassified spy photographs, confirmed by drone footage, showed the outlines of a city that is probably the “lost” city of Alexander the Great for more than 2,000 years, according to The Times.

Never defeated in battle, Alexander, also called the Great, built a powerful empire stretching from Macedonia and Greece to Europe, through Persia, Egypt to northern India. After his death at the age of 32, the empire disintegrated, but left for a long time the influence of Greek culture on the vast territory of the former empire.

Researchers from the British Museum believe that the Qalatga Darband – which roughly translates from Kurdish as “fortress of the pass” – was almost certainly built in 331 BC. when Alexander the Great passed from here, pursuing Darius III in Persia. Alexander the Great later settled in the city with 3,000 veterans of his campaigns.

The city was first discovered with the help of declassified spy satellite images taken by the US military in the 1960s and made public in 1996. Archaeological excavations were impossible when Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq. But recently the area has become calmer, which has allowed the British Museum to explore the area by drone and confirm the existence of the city.

Kalatga Darband’s research is being conducted under the $ 40 million Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Program, designed to help Iraq rebuild its historic sites destroyed by Islamic State. Teams of Iraqi archaeologists are being sent to excavate the area for six weeks after being trained by the British Museum in London to do drone research and 3D scanning.

The city is located about 10 km southeast of Rania, Sulaymaniyah province in Iraqi Kurdistan. The team conducted a ground survey of the site, examining a large square building that is believed to have been a fortress. Remarkable statues of Roman deities and terracotta tiles have been found, and an important figure is believed to be buried in the large building, according to the British Museum blog.

“The drone provided excellent information,” Dr. John MacGinnis, the program’s lead archaeologist, told The Times. “It’s still early, but we think it must have been a bustling city on the road from Iraq to Iran. You can imagine the people delivering wine to the soldiers passing through it.”

The city is located on a large natural terrace of about 60 hectares along the river Lower Tooth, a tributary of the Tigris. The site work of the researchers reveals an urban settlement from the first and second centuries BC. with strong Greek and Roman influences.

Among the statues found is a female figure believed to be Persephone, the Greek goddess of fertility, and another believed to be Adonis, a plant god who died symbolically each fall and was revived in the spring.

Local farmers also found the remains of large buildings and a large fortress wall, as well as limestone blocks believed to have been wine or olive oil presses.

Excavations of a mound at the southern end of the site reveal a building that may have been a temple.

Fieldwork began in the fall of 2016 and is expected to continue until 2020. The team is now looking for written evidence to confirm its findings.

Illustration: Qalatga Darband is on the pointed shore beyond the bridge on the right. Photo: British Museum

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