The Lost Army Found?

Of one of Persian King Cambyses II’s armies Herodotus wrote:

As for those of the host who were sent to march ageist the Ammonians, they set froth and journeyed from Thebes with guides; and it is known that they came to the city of Oasis, where dwell Samians said to be of the Aeschrionian tribe, seven days’ march from Thebes across sandy desert; this place is called, in the Greek language, the Island of the Blest. Thus far, it is said, the army came; after that, save the Ammononians themselves and those who heard from them, no man can say aught of them; for they neither reached the Ammonians nor returned back. But this is what the Ammonians themselves say: When the Persians were crossing the sand from the Oassis to attack them, and were about midway between their country and the Oasis, while they were breakfasting a great and violent wind arose, which buried them in the masses of sand which it bore; and so they disappeared from sight. Such is the Ammonian tale abut this army. [III, 26, using Godley’s LCC translation]

Well, Dario Del Bufalo and his colleagues from the University of Lecce think they found this lost army, or part of it, in the Sahara Desert. Check out the Discovery Channel story complete with video and slide show. There’s lots of bones if that’s your thing. Whoever these people were, they were sure in the wrong place at the wrong time and they appear to have had Persian weapons with them (or at least weapons of the right age). If Del Bufalo is correct, the Ammonians (and Herodotus) may not have gotten the story quite right; the lost army may have scattered for want of food and water, only part of it, perhaps, drowning in a sandstorm.
{Yes, I’m a couple of days late getting to this but at least I’m to it now.)
Update: Nobember 12, 2009
See Cluade Mariottini’s blog for an interesting update. This may not be all that it seems.

3 thoughts on “The Lost Army Found?”

  1. Not a pleasant way to die, smothered in sand. It’s worse than drowning — which is bad enough.(I’ve had some real jerks try to tell me that being unable to breathe is a painless death. Duh!) Sand, now, it can take much longer to die.
    In a bad sand storm, the wind-whipped sand can abrade your skin off and create new dunes burying everything in its path. Even if there is a handy cave to hide in, the entrance could be covered by a new sand dune. These bones were in a valley — but was it a valley when they were there? Dunes “walk.” What the wind covers, it can also uncover — or Del Bufalo could never have found the site.
    The story as passed down could be correct as-is. After all, an army and how much territory have Del Bufalo and colleagues dug out?
    If that sandstorm came up as fast as most do…
    You can usually tell if one is coming up — the sky gets a rather distinctive yellow-brown haze and you can see it coming. However, if you don’t know what that haze means and have nowhere to hide when the first blasts hit . . .
    I’ve spent the last three days trying to get all the sand out of my place. The stuff gets into everything — had to wash the venetian blinds and every shutter and don’t ask about the open entry hall with its mini dunes. This one was mild. Some pretty strong gusts, but at least you could turn your back to the wind and not have to run for cover.
    And no, I would not like to see that valley. Besides, another sand storm could turn it back into a large dune in a matter of hours.

  2. Aydin,
    Rochelle is right. That could be a very dangerous place. Still, I’d like to visit it too.
    Rochelle,
    You have been “up close and personal” with sandstorms. They are no fun! Beyond all the sand you had to clean out, I hope your place wasn’t damaged. It’s not unusual for even mild sand storms to etch and remove some paint.

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