Lost and found

Look: Researchers uncover a lost city only known from ancient coins

No, it’s not Atlantis.

Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project

DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images

Despite the empire’s significance, archaeologists know relatively little about the lives of the Parthians.

But excavations at a site in modern-day Iraqi Kurdistan shed light on what may have once been an important hub in the ancient world.

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project


Called Rabana-Merquly, the fortress is situated in the Zagros Mountains.

It surrounds the remains of two Parthian settlements, one at the foot of the mountains and another atop a plateau.

The Parthians’ time there appears to be short-lived, occupied for up to a few hundred years until the end of their reign.

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

But Parthian-era rock reliefs carved into the fortress walls have stood the test of time.

And their location near the Lower Zab River appears to connect the site to tales of an ancient metropolis.

Sutthiwat Srikhrueadam/Moment/Getty Images

Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project

Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project

The researchers argue that the site may be the remains of a lost city, called Natounia.

Known only from inscriptions on a handful of drachma coins, Natounia appeared to be an important place connected to Parthian rulers.

Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project

The carving of a king on the fortress could be an homage to the founder of Natounia.

And the city’s full name, Natounia on the Kapros, nods to the Greek name for the nearby Lower Zab River.

Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The remains of military barracks at the site also reveal that the Parthian army was stronger and more established than some records claim.

Rabana-Merquly Archaeological Project

So thanks to its strength, size, and location, Rabana-Merquly is the most promising candidate for researchers to consider it the real-life remains of the fabled Natounia.