A mysterious city thought to have been founded by Alexander the Great has been uncovered by British archaeologists.
Qalatga Darband in northern Iraq has been lost for more than 2,000 years until researchers stumbled upon it after flying a drone over a previously out of bounds area.
Archaeologists at the British Museum were first alerted to the potential site after pouring over declassified spy satellite photographs taken by the American government for military purposes in the 1960s.
The team then confirmed the location of the buried city by flying a drone equipped with a camera which then captured its outline, reports The Times.
The previously war-torn area has only just become safe enough to carry out digs.
John MacGinnis, the archaeologist in charge of the government-funded Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Program, said the thriving city existed in the first and second centuries BC.
When images were processed to exaggerate contrasts in color the team found outlines of a large rectangular building hidden beneath fields of wheat and barley.
MacGinnis said: “The drone yielded excellent information.”
“We got coverage of all the site using the drone in the spring analyzing crop marks hasn’t been done at all in Mesopotamian (Iraqi) archaeology.
“Where there are walls underground the wheat and barley don’t grow so well, so there are color differences in the crop growth.”
Qalatga Darband was built on the probable route Greek strongman Alexander of Macedonia took in 331 BC while pursuing Darius III of Persia before defeating him in battle at Gaugamela.
Statues of Greco-Roman deities and terracotta roof tiles show a strong Greek influence, indicating that its early residents were Alexander’s subjects and those of his successor.
Other big buildings have been detected along with a fortified wall and stone presses suitable for wine production.
MacGinnis said: “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.”
The team is returning to the site this week to make further discoveries.