Mystery Surrounding Lost Army of Persian King Cambyses II May Have Been Solved


According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Cambyses II, the oldest son of Cyrus the Great, sent his army to destroy the Oracle of Amun at Siwa Oasis. 50,000 warriors entered the Egypt’s western desert near Luxor. Somewhere in the middle of the desert the army was overwhelmed by a sandstorm and destroyed.

Although many scientists regard the story as a myth, amateur as well as professional archaeologists have searched for the remains of the Persian soldiers for many decades.

Prof Kaper never believed this story. “Some expect to find an entire army, fully equipped. However, experience has long shown that you cannot die from a sandstorm,” he said. Read more.

photo by Erwin Bolwidt on Flickr.

Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BC). Persepolis is situated 70 km northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. UNESCO declared the citadel of Perspolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Gerard David - “The Flaying of Sisamnes”, from the Judgment of Cambyses Dyptich; Groeningemuseum, Bruges, Belgium; 1499

Sisamnes accepted a bribe from a party in a lawsuit, and therefore rendered an unjust judgment. King Cambyses learned of the bribe, accused Sisamnes, and had him arrested and punished, but by no ordinary punishment. The punishment was as creative as it was cruel:

King Cambyses slit his throat and flayed off all his skin and he strung the chair, on which Sisamnes had used to sit to deliver his verdicts, with these thongs.

Cambyses’s creativity did not stop there. To replace Judge Sisamnes whom he had killed and flayed, Cambyses appointed Sisamnes’s son, Otanes, as the new judge. Cambyses warned Otanes to bear in mind the source of the leather of the bench upon which he would sit to hear evidence, deliberate, and deliver his decisions.

- My Daily Art Display

Cambyses' Army

According to Herodotus 3.26, Cambyses sent an army to threaten the Oracle of Amun at the Siwa Oasis. The army of 50,000 men was halfway across the desert when a massive sandstorm sprang up, burying them all. Although many Egyptologists regard the story as a myth, people have searched for the remains of the soldiers for many years. These have included Count László Almásy (on whom the novel The English Patient was based), Orde Wingate and modern geologist Tom Brown. Some believe that in recent petroleum excavations, the remains may have been uncovered.

In January 1933, Orde Wingate searched unsuccessfully for the Lost Army of Cambyses in Egypt’s Western Desert, then known as the Libyan Desert.

In February 1977 there were reports that archaeologists had found remains of Cambyses’s army, but this story proved to be a hoax.

From September 1983 to February 1984, Gary S. Chafetz, an American journalist and author, led an expedition—sponsored by Harvard University, The National Geographic Society, the Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority, and the Ligabue Research Institute—that searched for the Lost Army of Cambyses. The six-month search was conducted along the Egyptian-Libyan border in a remote 100-square-kilometer area of complex dunes south west of the uninhabited Bahrein Oasis, approximately 100 miles south east of Siwa (Amon) Oasis. The $250,000 expedition had at its disposal 20 Egyptian geologists and laborers, a National Geographic photographer, two Harvard Film Studies documentary filmmakers, three camels, an ultra-light aircraft, and ground-penetrating radar. The expedition discovered approximately 500 tumuli (Zoroastrian-style graves) but no artifacts. Several tumuli contained bone fragments. Thermoluminence later dated these fragments to 1,500 BCE, approximately 1000 years earlier than the Lost Army. A recumbent winged sphinx carved in oolitic limestone was also discovered in a cave in the uninhabited Sitra Oasis (between Bahrein and Siwa Oases), whose provenance appeared to be Persian. Chafetz was arrested when he returned to Cairo in February 1984 for “smuggling an airplane into Egypt,” even though he had the written permission of the Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority to bring the aircraft into the country. He was interrogated for 24 hours. The charges were dropped after he promised to donate the ultra-light to the Egyptian Government. The aircraft now sits in the Egyptian War Museum in Cairo.

In the summer of 2000, a Helwan University geological team, prospecting for petroleum in Egypt’s Western Desert, came across well-preserved fragments of textiles, bits of metal resembling weapons, and human remains that they believed to be traces of the Lost Army of Cambyses. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced that it would organize an expedition to investigate the site, but released no further information.

In November 2009, two Italian archaeologists, Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni, announced the discovery of human remains, tools and weapons which date to the era of the Persian army. These artifacts were located near Siwa Oasis.[15] According to these two archaeologists this is the first archaeological evidence of the story reported by Herodotus. While working in the area, the researchers noticed a half-buried pot and some human remains. Then the brothers spotted something really intriguing—what could have been a natural shelter. It was a rock about 35 meters (114.8 feet) long, 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) in height and 3 meters (9.8 feet) deep. Such natural formations occur in the desert, but this large rock was the only one in a large area.

However, these “two Italian archaeologists” presented their discoveries in a film rather than a scientific journal. Doubts have been raised because the Castiglioni brothers also happen to be the two filmmakers who produced five controversial African shockumentaries in the 1970s—including Addio ultimo uomo, Africa ama, and Africa dolce e selvaggia—films in which audiences saw unedited footage of the severing of a penis, the skinning of a human corpse, the deflowering of a girl with a stone phallus, and a group of hunters tearing apart an elephant’s carcass.

The Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has said in a press release that media reports of this “are unfounded and misleading” and that “The Castiglioni brothers have not been granted permission by the SCA to excavate in Egypt, so anything they claim to find is not to be believed.”

I was just casually Wikipedia hopping and reading about Amasis II (6th century BCE Egyptian King) and the article ended with this delightful account from Herodotus, who is our main source on this King who had the fortune to die about a year before the Persians invaded Egypt:

"No sooner did [… Cambyses] enter the palace of Amasis that he gave orders for his [Amasis’s] body to be taken from the tomb where it lay. This done, he proceeded to have it treated with every possible indignity, such as beating it with whips, sticking it with goads, and plucking its hairs. [… ]As the body had been embalmed and would not fall to pieces under the blows, Cambyses had it burned."

…Persians, that is grim. I shake my head at you.


This clay tablet Astronomical Diary found in Babylon now in the British Museum is referred by three names:

Strm Kambys 400

LBAT 1477

BM 33066

This clay tablet is essential to establish the links between the Babylonian and Biblical chronologies, because it contains the record of the astronomical data of the 7th year of Cambyses, son of Cyrus 2nd who was the conqueror of Babylon.

In the lines 19 to 22 of its reverse, it records data for two eclipses and dates them according to the Babylonian calendar. We read:

“Year 7, the month of Tammuz, the night of 14th, 1 ⅔ and 1 double hour (three hours and twenty minutes) after sunset; the moon had a total eclipse which remained for a little, the wind blew from the north.

Month of Tebet, the night of 14th, twice two hours and a half (five hours) of the night;   before dawn the moon had a total eclipse, the wind blew from north to south”.

In accordance with these astronomical data, the 7th year of Cambyses is for the year 523 BC. This is an absolute date to connect the Babylonian calendar with our calendar, and if the first year of the reign of Cambyses was 530 BC (523 + 7 = 530) and the cuneiform texts say that Cyrus reigned for 9 years in Babylon, then the fall of Babylon happened in 539 BC (530 + 9 = 539).

This is an English translation of the text of the tablet:



1     Year 7 of Kambyses. (the 1st of which was identical with)

       the 30th (of the preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 23º.

2     Month 1º. the 1st the moon became visible:

3     1 bēru sunset to moonset.

4     Night of the 13th: moonrise to sunset: at 9º.

5     The 13th. moonset to sunrise: 2º 20’.

6     Night of the 14th: sunset to moonrise: 8º 20’.

7     The 14th, sunrise to moonset: 7º 40’.

8     The 27th: (moonrise to sunrise:) at 16º.

9     Month II, (the 1st of which was identical with) the :30th

      (of the Preceding month: sunset to moonset:) 23º.

10   The 13th. moonset to sunrise: 8º 20’.

11   Night of the 14th. moonrise to sunset: 1º.

12   The 14th. sunrise to moonset: 1º 40’.

13   Night of the 15th, sunset to moonrise: 14º 30’.

14   The 27th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 21º.

15   Month 3º, (the 1st of which was identical with) the 30th

       (of the preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 18º 30’.

16   Night of the 14th. moonrise to sunset: 9º 30’.

17   The 14th, moonset to sunrise: 4º.

18   Night of the 15th, sunset to moonrise: 5º.

19   The 15th, sunrise to moonset: 8º 30’.

20   The 27th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 15º.

21   Month 4º, the 1st (of which followed the 30th of the

       preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 27º.

22   The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 11º.

23   Night of the 14th. moonrise to sunset: 4º.

24   The 14th. sunrise to moonset: 4º.

25   Night of the 15th. sunset to moonrise: 8º 30’.

26   The 27th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 15º.


1     Month 5º, (the 1st of which was identical with} the 30th

       (of the preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 10+[x]º.

2     The 14th, [moonset to sunrise:] 3º 30’.

3     Night of the 13th, [moonrise to sunset:] 2º 20+[x]’.

4     The 15th, sunrise to moonset: 1 Io.

5     Night of the 16th. sunset [to moonrise:) 7º 30’.

6     The 27th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 22º 30’.

7     Month 6º, the 1st {of which followed the 30th of the

       preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 15º 40’.

8     The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 11º.

9     The 14th, sunrise to moonset: 4º.

10   Night of the 15th. moonrise to sunset: 1º 20’.

11   Night of the 16th. sunset to moonrise: 8º 40’.

12   The 28th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 15º.

13   Month 7º, the 1st (of which followed the 30th of the

       preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 16º 40’.

14   The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 6º 30’.

15   Night of the 14th. moonrise to sunset: 7º 30’.

16   The 14th, sunrise to moonset: 12º.

17   Night of the 15th. sunset to moonrise: 3º.

18   The 26th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 22º.

19   Month 8º, (the 1st of which was identical with) the 30th

      (of the preceding month. sunset to moonset:) 12º 40’.

20   The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 15º.

21   The 14th, sunrise to moonset: 5º.

22   Night of the 15th. moonrise to sunset: 1º.

23   Night of the 16th. sunset to moonrise: 14º.

24   The 26th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 26º.

       (the following paragraph extends over cols. 2º and 3º)

25   Month 12º the 1st (of which followed the 30th of the

       preceding month, sunset to moonset:)19º.

       Night of the 13th, moonrise to sunset: [x]+1º 30’.

26   The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 5º 20’. Night of the 14th.

       sunset to moonrise: 3º.

27   The 14th, sunrise to moonset: 5º 40’. The 27th,

      (moonrise to sunrise:) 21º.


1     The 1[3th, moonset to sunrise: ….]

2     Night of the l|4th. moonrise to sunset: ….]

3     The 14th, [sunrise to moonset:] 5º.

4     Night of the 15th, [sunset to moonrise:] 10º 20’.

5     The 27th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 24º.

6     Month 11º, the 1st (of which followed the 30th of the

       preceding month, sunset to moonset:) 22º.

7     Night of the 13th, moonrise to sunset: 17º 20’.

8     The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 4º 40’.

9     Night of the 14th, sunset to moonrise: 1o 40’.

10   The 14th, sunrise to moonset: 7º.

11   The 27th, (moonrise to sunrise:) 17º.

12   Month 12º, (the 1st of which wras identical with) the 30th

       (of the preceding month. sunset to moonset:) 15º 30’.

13   The 12th, moonset to sunrise: 10º 30’.

14   Night of the 13th, moonrise to sunset: 5º 20’.

15   The 13th, there was no “moonset to sunrise”

       or “sunrise to moonset”.

16   Night of the 14th, sunset to moonrise: 10º.

17   The 25thsle, (moonrise to sunrise:) 23º: the 27th,

      (moonrise to sunrise:) 12º.

Right edge

1’     [….]….

2’     [(Mercury’s) ….] first appearance ….

3’     [….] last appearance in the east in the

4’     [rear’] foot of Leo.

5’     […. first appearance] in the west in ….


1’’    [….]….[….]

2’’    [….]….[….]

3’’    Month XII, the 19th, last appearance in the west.

4’’    in the Ribbon of the Fishes.


1     Year 7, month 5º, the 22nd,

       Jupiter’s last appearance in front   of Virgo.

2     Month 6º, the 22nd,

       first appearance behind Virgo.

       Month 10º, the 27th,

       it became stationary in front of Libra.

       Month 12º was intercalary.

3     Year 8, month 2º, the 25th,

       it became stationary in the area of Virgo.

       Month 6º, the 4th,

       last appearance behind Libra.

4     Year 7, month 3º, the 10th.

       Venus last appearance in the west in the beginning of Leo.

       Month 3º, the 27th,

5     first appearance in the east in the area of Cancer.

       Month 12º, the 7th,

       last appearance in the east in the area of Pisces.

       Month XII was intercalary.

6     Year 8, month 1º, the 13th,

       first appearance in the west in the area of the Chariot.

7     Year 7, month 6º, the 3rd.

       Saturn’s last appearance in the area of Virgo.

       Month 7º, the 13th,

       first appearance behind Virgo.

       Month 12º was intercalary.

8     Year 8, month 5º, the 29th, last appearance.

9     Year 7, month 2º, the 28th,

       Mars last appearance in front of Gemini.

10   Month 6º, the 13th, first appearance in the foot of Leo.

       Month 12º was intercalary.

       Year 8, month 5º, the 12th, it became stationary.

11   Year 9, month 2º, the 9th, last appearance behind α Leonis.

12   Year 7, month 7º, the 1st,

       the moon became visible 3 cubits behind Mercury.

       Month 6º, the 24th, Venus was 1+[x cubits’ | above Mars.

13    Month 7º, the 23rd, last part of the night.

       Jupiter was 3 cubits above the moon.

14    Month 7º, the 29th, last part of the night,

       Venus on the north side [came near] 2 fingers to Jupiter.

15    Month 7º, the 12th, Saturn was 1 cubit in front of Jupiter.

16    Month 7º, the 11th, Mars came near to Jupiter 2 fingers.

17    Month 8º, the 2nd, Saturn passed 8 fingers above Venus.

18    Month 10º, the 5th, Mercury was ½ cubit behind Venus.

19    Year 7, month 4º, night of the 14th, 1 ⅔ bēru after sunset.

20    the moon made a total eclipse,

        a little remained: the north wind blew.

21    Month 10º, night of the 14th,

        when 2 ½ bēru remained to sunrise.

22    the moon made a total eclipse: the south and north winds blew in it.


i had cambyses in my backpack with the sandwich bag i used for my smoked lamb sandwich earlier this week and now he smells smoked


i’m pretty lonely and sad and i miss people who hate me, but at least we have chocolate ice cream and kirsebaer sauce

and cambyses exists