Remember the ‘groundbreaking discovery’ of Cambyses’ lost Persian army a few weeks back, in the Western Desert of Egypt? Almost as soon as it had been announced, Zahi Hawass’ Supreme Council of Antiquities were all over it, rejecting the Castiglioni brothers’ claims they’d found the legendary fleet near Siwa Oasis.
Yet any doubts as to the brothers’ credibility have been lost on Iranian officials, who have branded Dr Hawass’ rejection of the discovery as politically motivated, and have urged UNESCOto step in to save the army’s remains. The request by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Toursim Organisation (ICHHTO) was made yesterday. Spokesman Hassan Mohseni tells Fars news agency: “Egypt’s chief archeologist Zahi Hawass has recently rejected the discovery of the army in his personal weblog due to political pressure.”
It’s an odd twist in a growing saga which promises to run for some time yet. Various cyber-sleuths have succeeded only in shrouding the story in even more mystery, digging up conflicting claims from sources as far back as 2004. Cambyses’ 50,000 men are said to have vanished in a huge sandstorm some 2,500 years ago, whilst on their way to Siwa’s Temple of Amun. The Castiglioni brothers have supposedly found large numbers of human bones and Persian artefacts just outside the remote oasis.
Yet almost immediately the web was awash with comments, rumour and controversy thanks to the SCA’s response to the ‘find’. “I need to inform the public that recent reports published in newspapers, news agencies and TV news announcing that twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni have unearthed the remains of the Persian army of Cambyses, are unfounded and misleading,” wrote Dr Hawass on his personal blog. We’ll keep you posted on the latest developments as soon as they happen.