Friday, July 4, 2014

Urgent News: Hieroglyphs may finally solve 5th century disappearance of Persian army

In 524 BC, a Persian army of 50,000 men sent by King Cambyses II marched into the Egyptian desert from Thebes - now known as Luxor. But, after entering the desert, they were never heard from again.

For centuries. it has been presumed they were swallowed by a sandstorm, but now a researcher claims that wasn’t the case - and instead they must have been defeated in battle.

In the 5th century BC, Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the disappearance of the army could be attributed to an unfortunate end involving sand dunes. University of Leiden Egyptologist Professor Olaf Kaper, however, disagrees.

‘Since the 19th century, people have been looking for this army: amateurs, as well as professional archaeologists,’ he said.

‘Some expect to find, somewhere under the ground, an entire army, fully equipped.
‘However, experience has long shown that you can't die from a sandstorm, let alone have an entire army disappear.’

Professor Kaper is now putting forward an entirely different explanation. He argues that the army did not disappear, but was instead, defeated. 

‘My research shows that the army was not simply passing through the desert; its final destination was the Dachla Oasis,’ he said. ‘This was the location of the troops of the Egyptian rebel leader Petubastis III.

‘He ultimately ambushed the army of Cambyses, and in this way managed from his base in the oasis to reconquer a large part of Egypt, after which he had himself crowned Pharaoh in the capital, Memphis.’

Kaper said he made the discovery accidentally. In collaboration with New York University and the University of Lecce, he was involved for the last ten years in excavations in Amheida, in the Dachla Oasis.
And earlier this year, he deciphered the full list of titles of Petubastis III on ancient temple blocks. ‘That’s when the puzzle pieces fell into place’, said the Egyptologist.

‘The temple blocks indicate that this must have been a stronghold at the start of the Persian period.

‘Once we combined this with the limited information we had about Petubastis III, the excavation site and the story of Herodotus, we were able to reconstruct what happened.’

The fact that the fate of the army of Cambyses remained unclear for such a long time is probably due to the Persian King Darius I, who ended the Egyptian revolt with much bloodshed two years after Cambyses’ defeat.

He attributed the shameful defeat of his predecessor to natural elements, and 75 years after the events, all Herodotus could do was take note of the sandstorm story.

But now this new research sheds light on one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of all time.

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