Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Cambyses' Lost Army Volume 53 Number 5, September/October 2000
by Salima Ikram

A Helwan University geological team, prospecting for petroleum in Egypt's Western Desert, has come upon well-preserved fragments of textiles, bits of metal resembling weapons, and human remains they believe to be traces of the lost army of the Persian ruler, Cambyses II, who conquered and ruled Egypt in the sixth century B.C.

Cambyses sent an army to Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert, perhaps to seek legitimization of his rule from the oracle of Amun there, as Alexander the Great had done in the fourth century B.C. The army was overtaken by a sandstorm and buried. For centuries adventurers and archaeologists have tried to find the lost army.

The Helwan University team alerted Mohammed al-Saghir of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to the find. The SCA is now organizing a mission to investigate the site in the coming months. According to Herodotus, the army consisted of an estimated 50,000 soldiers with weapons and pack animals. If the remains are in fact those of Cambyses' vanished army they will not only solve a mystery, but provide us with a rich source of information on the Persian military of the time.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America