2,500 years ago, the warring King Cambyses, son to Cyrus the Great, sent 50,000 soldiers to the Temple of Amun to legitimize his claim to Egypt. During the seven-day trek through sweltering heat and rising dunes, the soldiers eventually ... disappeared.
Myths arose to explain their disappearance. It was believed that a sandstorm had swallowed them whole: "A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which eventually covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear," wrote Herodotus, a historian of those times. No traces of the missing army were ever found, and people began to dismiss it as merely a myth.
Recently, two archaeologists, Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni, have found evidence of this missing army near Bahrain. While surveying an area, the brothers located a large rock that could be used as a natural shelter in the midst of a sandstorm. Within this shelter, the Castiglionis found a bronze dagger and several arrow tips, dating back to Cambyses' time.
Other archaeologists searching for the lost army of Cambyses had believed the troops took a widely used caravan route. Castiglioni hypothesized that the troops had taken a westerly route instead: "This [alternative] route had the advantage of taking the enemy aback. Moreover, the army could march undisturbed. On the contrary, since the oases on the other route were controlled by the Egyptians, the army would have had to fight at each oasis."
They followed this route and found now-bone dry water sources and artificial wells buried under the sand - water sources that would have been available during the army's trek.
Near where the temple was believed to have been located, the Castiglioni brothers found a mass grave with hundreds of bones and skulls, with arrow heads and horse bits interspersed among the remains. But a more thorough expedition will be needed to confirm that this is, indeed, the lost army of Cambyses.