Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is this the legendary lost Persian army? Compelling remains found in Sahara Desert

The legend of the lost Persian army has survived over two and a half millennia - despite a blatant lack of hard evidence.

But now two Italian experts believe they have found its remains.

Twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni uncovered hundreds of human bones, weapons and jewelery in the Sahara desert, west Egypt, that they believe belonged to the 50,000-strong army.

Historic discovery? A mass grave of hundreds of bleached bones and skulls believed to be Cambyses' lost army

‘We have found the first archaeological evidence of a story reported by the Greek historian Herodotus,’ Dario Del Bufalo, a member of the exhibition from the University of Lecce in Italy, said.

Herodotus wrote that Persian King Cambyses II and his men were ensconced by a huge sandstorm in 525 B.C. – and never seen again.

Uncovered: The Castiglioni brothers found these desiccated water sources and artificial wells made from hundreds of water pots

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

The army was sent to the Oasis of Siwa - an oasis in the Libyan Desert in Egypt - to destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun.

In action: Twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni uncover the historic remains in the Sahara desert with the help of a metal detector

Ancient Egyptians held oracles to be manifestations of the gods that could see into the future.

They were often consulted before to big decisions. According to the story, the oracle would have foretold the demise of King Cambyses II.

Compelling evidence: Relics of ancient warfare, including this bronze dagger dating to Cambyses' time

Twenty years ago, brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni made another incredible find, with Berenike Panchrysos, the Egyptian ‘city of gold’.

This time, the pair stumbled on the remains after noticing a pot, some bones and a fascinating rock formation.

Destination: The temple of Amun, also known as the Temple of the Oracle, which Cambyses' army had set out to destroy

The rock, which was about 35m long, 1.8m high and 3m deep, was the only formation of its kind in the vicinity.

‘Its size and shape made it the perfect refuge in a sandstorm,’ Alfredo Castiglioni told Discovery News.

Legend: An image shows the supposed destruction of Cambyses' Army by a sandstorm

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