Makhunik is a little town located in the arid wastelands of the Lut Desert in the Shahdad district of South Khorasan Province, Iran.
In the present day, it appears to be very much like any other village in the sparsely populated region, and there may not appear to be anything strange or remarkable about this place at all, but looking around, you will find Neolithic architecture and tunnels hinting at the area’s ancient past, and indeed lying beneath this modern village lies something far more ancient and mysterious.
The ancient city
More intriguing, the ancient structures here that are still in use appear to have been created for dwellers considerably smaller than modern humans, probably by a long-lost race of miniature people, giving this mysterious area the nickname Shahr-e Kotouleha, or “City of Dwarves.”
The ancient city had been buried and abandoned in the desert for millennia before being discovered in the 1940s by perplexed archeologists who had previously believed that no civilization had ever called this barren, forbidding region home.
Many of the artifacts, tools, and furnaces found here, as well as the height of doorways or ceilings and the width of tunnels, and the numerous stone and clay houses, were discovered to have been made specifically for inhabitants estimated to have averaged only 3 to 4 feet in height, a veritable real-life race of dwarves, though no one knows who they were or why they should have been of such diminutive stature.
This ancient culture was discovered to have abruptly and unexpectedly abandoned the city somewhere around the beginning of the third millennium BC, for reasons that are still unknown.
The only thing that can be said about this enormous departure is that it was abrupt, with belongings abandoned and left behind, and with some doorways oddly blocked and coated in mud.
Although it is thought that these ancient people fled due to severe drought and intended to return, it is still unclear why they fled in such vast numbers. According to the Iran Daily, the strange city is:
The odd architecture of the buildings, lanes, and equipment unearthed is an important part of Shahdad. Only dwarfs could use the walls, ceiling, furnaces, shelves, and all of the equipment. After 5,000 years since the dwarfs‘ departure from the city, a big swath of this prehistoric region has been buried in dirt, and the movement of Shahdad’s dwarfs remains a mystery.
Of course, the idea of a mysterious ancient lost vanished race of little people out in the desert is enticing, and it has sparked all sorts of wild speculation about who these people were, such as whether they were simply stunted in growth due to nutritional or environmental factors, or whether they were another race of miniature humans or even aliens.
More dubious archeologists have quickly pointed out that such legends have been overdone, that the low ceilings of the dwellings were perhaps produced by natural forces that caused them to get lower over millennia, and that the mysterious residents’ low heights have been overstated.