Silver Earrings, weapons crafted from bronze, jewelry, treasure, and the bones of hundreds (possibly thousands) of men have been found in the Egyptian desert, solving what many hope to be one of the oldest mysteries Archaeology has ever faced. The internet became alive with activity as cell phone networks lit up and people excitedly conveyed the cryptic message all across the Earth, “Cambyses’ Army has been found!”
The story of Cambyses the Second’s army, 50,000 strong was originally sent by the son of Cyrus the Great to wipe out the Temple of Amun along with the oracle there who defied him. The Oracle, some said was a powerful man who had found favor with the gods themselves. Cambyses, however, was a determined man, protected by his own cadre of Gods. Per the doctrine of his father Cyrus, all religions were to be respected under his rule. But freedom of religion meant a whole new set of challenges for his successors. And the priests at the Temple of Amun were threatening to cause a rebellion. As the Persians marched halfway through the desert, 50,000 strong and equipped with the finest weapons a vast fortune could buy, a sudden wind from the south picked up. No one knows what was running through the minds of the army as they scattered into the wind like leaves so unfamiliar to the barren wastes of Egypt. Perhaps it may have been of The Oracle, who it was said had recently found favor with Set the god fabled to command power over sandstorms.
The striking tale was originally written down by Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus. Though his work has been generally embraced as historical fact by modern Archaeology, this tale was often considered too sensational to be anything more than myth. Only recently did the legend of Cambyses’ lost army finally get mainstream acceptance as Italian researchers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni, brothers and twins, found evidence of the army recently. The Castiglioni brothers already achieved fame for their discovery of the “Egyptian City of Gold,” Berenike Panchrysos in 1989. At the Archaeological Film Festival of Rovereto the brothers revealed their finds after over 13 years of research and five desert expeditions.
While studying for meteorites, the brothers spotted human bones and artifacts nearby a solitary monolithic stone that had been recently uncovered. Naturally, this would be the perfect shelter for an army desperate to escape drowning in the desert sands. As they approached, they began finding more artifacts. Thirteen years later, they say they have discovered the origin of the remains. Analysis of the jewelry found near or on the skeletons has been traced to the Achaemenid period, putting it right about the time of Cambyses.
This discovery will no doubt fuel years of research in the area. Cambyses’ army may have erred in angering an Egyptian man of magic, but they also were not equipped with sufficient navigational experts. In later years, the story of the lost army would be told to students of strategy and tactics to punctuate the importance of conquering your terrain long before you could conquer your enemies. Perhaps that is doubly true when ancient Egyptian mysticism is involved.