Drone photography has enabled archaeologists in Iraq to discover a lost city built by Alexander the Great that has been quietly tucked away for over 2,000 years. It is believed that Qalatga Darband was founded by Alexander the Great around 331 BC, and a careful investigation and study using declassified intelligence images and drone photography has led British and Iraqi archaeologists working in conjunction with the British Museum to find this once remarkable and thriving city.
John MacGinnis is one of the archaeologists who is currently heading the project to learn more about this lost city in Iraq and believes that it may once have been part of a very busy path between Iran and Iraq, according to The Independent.
“It’s early days, but we think it would have been a bustling city on a road from Iraq to Iran. You can imagine people supplying wine to soldiers passing through.”
Archaeologists originally noticed what appeared to be some kind of ancient settlement in this location in Iraq after they had gone through spy footage from the United States dating back to the 1960s. However, the political situation at the time that the images were viewed was extremely unstable and even though the pictures went public in 1996, archaeologists were still not able to visit the site and begin to properly explore it yet, as the Daily Mail report.
It is believed that after Alexander the Great initially founded the lost city of Qalatga Darband in Iraq in 331 BC that he then rounded up those who had fought with him in different military campaigns and used around 3,000 of these men to build up his new city. Interestingly, archaeologists believe that Alexander first came across this site when on the route he and his army used when they were traveling to fight Darius III and the Persians.
The lost city’s location is now roughly six miles away from the present day Ranya in Iraqi Kurdistan, while the town’s name, Qalatga Darband, can be loosely translated to “castle of the mountain pass” in Kurdish.
— The Independent (@Independent) September 25, 2017
When it comes to drone photography, John MacGinnis has said that studying crop marks for archaeology in Mesopotamia has never been done before now.
“We got coverage of all the site using the drone in the spring. Analyzing crop marks hasn’t been done at all in Mesopotamian archaeology. Where there are walls underground the wheat and barley don’t grow so well, so there are color differences in the crop growth.”
What have archaeologists found so far in Alexander the Great’s lost city in Iraq? They have uncovered numerous roof tiles made of terracotta, along with just as many Greek and Roman statues as you might expect. One of the female figures discovered was the goddess Persephone, and a male statue of Adonis has also been recovered.
A coin dating back from between 57 BC to 37 BC was also uncovered and the coin had the face of Orodes II stamped on it, the man who was once the king of the Parthian empire.
When research of Qalatga Darband began in 2016, it was provided with funds from the Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Program, which has seen the government of Iraq use $40 million in an effort to help fix and rebuild the numerous archaeological sites which have been destroyed because of war and the Islamic State.
Iraqi archaeologists will be visiting the British Museum where they will be spending eight weeks of intensive training, followed by further work with 3D scanning and drone technology. After they have completed their studies, they will return to Iraq and continue their research there.
Research of Qalatga Darband, the lost city in Iraq built by Alexander the Great, is set to continue until 2020.
[Featured Image by Antonio Castaneda/AP Images]