2,500 Year Old Remains Of Persian Army Found In Sahara Desert

The remains of  the legendary 50,000-strong army which perished in a severe sandstorm in the Sahara Desert 2,500 years ago are believed to have been found, reports The Mail, London. Italian archaeologists Angelo and Alfredo
2 500 year old remains of persian army found in...
PTI November 11, 2009 22:19 IST

The remains of  the legendary 50,000-strong army which perished in a severe sandstorm in the Sahara Desert 2,500 years ago are believed to have been found, reports The Mail, London.

Italian archaeologists Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni, twin brothers, have discovered bronze weapons and hundreds of human bones which they reckon are the remains of the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC), Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, sent the soldiers from Thebes to attack the Oasis of Siwa in 525BC.

Their mission was to destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun after the priests there refused to legitimise his claim to Egypt.

Mass grave of hundreds of bleached bones and skulls is believed to be remains of Cambyses' legendary 50,000-strong army which was swallowed up in a cataclysmic sandstorm.

Oracles were places where divine advice or prophecy was sought and the ancient Egyptians held them to be manifestations of the gods that could see into the future. They were often consulted before big decisions.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Cambyses and his 50,000 warriors were buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 BC. 

He wrote: "A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up troops and caused them to disappear."

Two centuries after the soldiers disappeared, Alexander the Great made his own pilgrimage there in 332BC before he began his conquest of Persia. His historians claimed that the oracle then confirmed he was the divine son of Zeus, the Greek god equated with Amun, and the legitimate pharaoh of Egypt.

Because of the lack of any archaeological evidence historians had come to dismiss the tale of Cambyses' lost army as legend.



This bronze dagger dating from King Cambyses' time is one of the stunning finds made by the researchers

Among those to have searched for the army is Count László Almásy (on whom the novel The English Patient was based). 

After walking for seven days in the desert, the army was said to have arrived at an 'oasis', which historians believe was El-Kharga, 120 miles west of the Nile in the Libyan Desert. After they left, a great sandstorm sprung up and they were never seen again.

Dario Del Bufalo, a member of the Castiglioni expedition from the University of Lecce in Italy, told Discovery News: ‘We have found the first archaeological evidence of a story reported by the Greek historian Herodotus.'

The Castiglioni brothers are already famous for their discovery 20 years ago of the city of pharaohs the 'city of gold' Berenike Panchrysos which was quoted by Pliny the Elder in his 'Naturalis Historia'.

Alfredo Castiglioni told Discovery News that the discovery was the result of 13 years of research and five expeditions to the desert.

While working close to Siwa the team of researchers noticed a half-buried pot and some human remains. 

Then the brothers spotted a rock 114ft long and 6ft in height which could have been used as a shelter by the army. Such rock formations occur in the desert, but this was the only one in a large area.

'Its size and shape made it the perfect refuge in a sandstorm,' Castiglioni said. It was there that a bronze dagger and several arrow tips were found.

'We are talking of small items, but they are extremely important as they are the first Achaemenid objects, thus dating to Cambyses' time, which have emerged from the desert sands in a location quite close to Siwa.'

The brothers studied ancient maps and came to the conclusion that the army did not take the caravan route most archaeologists believe they used.

'Since the 19th century, many archaeologists and explorers have searched for the lost army along that route. They found nothing. We hypothesised a different itinerary, coming from south,' added  Castiglioni.

 
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