(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from Italy and Iraq worked on the conservation of the temple of the goddess Allat in the ancient city of Hatra and drew attention to the relief images of camels and the king on the lintel. It turned out that the two animals closest to the ruler were hybrids of one-humped and two-humped camels.
These were commercially more valuable artiodactyls, whose breeding seems to have begun in Roman-Parthian times. This is reported in an article published in the journal Antiquity.
In the north of Iraq, about 110 kilometers from Mosul, are the ruins of the ancient city of Hatra (El-Khadr), which since 1985 have been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It was a large fortified city, founded approximately in the 3rd-2nd centuries BC during the Seleucid dynasty (a settlement on this place arose even earlier) and destroyed in the middle of the 3rd century AD by the army of the Iranian Shahinshah Shapur I. Hatra reached its heyday in the 2nd- I centuries BC, when it was the religious and commercial center of the Parthian kingdom.
Scientists note that this is the best preserved example of a Parthian city. It was surrounded by fortress walls about 6.4 kilometers long, which, in particular, saved it from being captured by the Romans. A significant part of the territory of this city is occupied by numerous temples, including the temple of the god Shamsh – a huge structure with vaults and columns, which in ancient times reached 30 meters in height.
In addition to the remains of buildings, numerous art objects were found here – sculptures, statues, reliefs. From 2014 to 2017, the ancient city was under the control of militants who destroyed part of the historical heritage.
Massimo Vidale from the University of Padua, together with scientists from Iraq and Italy, carried out preliminary conservation of the temple of the goddess Allat as part of a project to restore the territory of the ancient city of Hatra after it was liberated from militants. In one of the iwans of this building, they found important sculptures and friezes, two of which depicted the goddess Allat sitting in a saddle on a single-humped camel (Camelus dromedarius).
Scientists drew attention to the lintel with images of seated camels. Initially, 11 figures were depicted on the frieze: in the center was a bearded man in a crown, interpreted as a king, on both sides of him – five animals. Past researchers have noted that the two artiodactyls closest to humans were Bactrian camels (C. bactrianus).
The researchers pointed out the features of these two camels: while the left one has a long coat on the neck, shoulders and head, the right one does not, therefore it is visually similar to the dromedary. They also emphasized that the humps of these animals are separated only by a small depression. Based on this, scientists concluded that the two camels closest to the king were hybrids.
Archaeologists have noted that a hybrid of one-humped and two-humped camels (nar) is a much stronger and more enduring animal, capable of carrying about 400–500 kilograms, that is, at least twice as much as usual. This explained the commercial value of such artiodactyls. The oldest evidence of hybrid camel breeding in Central Asia dates back to the Roman-Parthian period.
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