SCA response re claim of Lost Army discovery

For those of you who would like an official announcement to which to link, the SCA’s official statement regarding the alleged discovery of the Lost Army of Cambyses is now available on Zahi Hawass’s site at drhawass.com .

The statement seems to have confused the discovery of the “lost army” remains (whatever they turn out to be) which were found just south of Siwa with the location of Berenike Panchrysos (not to be confused with Berenice Troglodytica) which in his discussion of Eastern Desert Ware Hans Barnard says has been tentatively identified with Daraheib.  The Castaglioni brothers, who were responsible for the discovery of the alleged lost army site are also assocatied with the discovery of another Egyptian site which was mentioned, most confusingly, in the SCA press release. Some years ago they located a site named Berenike Panchrysos in the Red Sea hills of Nubia (not in Bahrein, south of Siwa). Their findings were published in Castiglioni, A, and Castiglioni, A., Berenice Panchrysos (Deraheib-Allaqi): la “città dell’oro” del Deserto Nubiano Sudanese, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 17/2 (1997), 153-162. This Berenike is not to be confused with the better known site on the Egyptian Red Sea coast called Berenike Trodlodytica, which has been investigated under the direction of the University of Delaware and UCLA for many seasons. Photos and a map showing the rough location of Berenike Panchrysos (well worth a look) are available here.

They also published in Egyptian Archaeology in 1994: Castiglioni, Angelo and Castiglioni, Alfredo 1994: Discovering Berneice Panchrysos, Egyptian Archaeology No.4. Egypt Exploration Society.

Previous research did take place in the oasis of Bahrin and this was conducted by Paolo Gallo. He discovered a 30th Dynasty temple dedicated to Nactanebo I (380-361) which dates to a couple of centuries after the death of Cambyses in 522BC. There’s an online report of the discovery on the Middle East Online website:
http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=4409

There was a previous claim that the lost army had been found back in 2000, about which I posted during the week with a link to Archaeology magazine as follows:
http://www.archaeology.org/0009/newsbriefs/cambyses.html

The Castaglioni brothers appear to be affiliated with a research centre called the Centro di Ricerche sul Deserto Oriental / CeRDO (Centre for Research in the Eastern Desert) but I couldn’t find a website address for it, or find details of what its purpose actually is. Dario Del Bufalo, who was a member of the team and who also appears on the video talking with some authority about the find, seems to be an expert (if my dodgy Italian is to be believed) on marble and stones of the Roman period.

I’ve read one report that says that the brothers went on a geological expedition to Egypt and that they found the remains more or less in tandem with that project, but rewatching the video about the current claim for the discovery on the army on Discovery News they say that they have been studying a possible route for many years and set out to prove their theory. The video does not claim that they found the main body of the army, but that the army remains to be found and more research is required.

The route from Gilf Kebir to the Great Sand Sea is one that can be accomplished by tourists, with all the permissions for travel in place (I’ve done it myself), so there’s no reason why the team should not have been able to travel this route as tourists albeit with a secondary agenda. This has been done many times before. The fact of the matter is that tourist companies have been using the Lost Army to sell holidays to would-be explorers for years – I’ve seen them and found them rather amusing. See, for example, a story which covers the subject on the Rogue Classicism website (which has some other good comments to make on the subject of the discovery). It is, however, difficult to know how to stop the less responsible people from doing harm to the desert archaeology as tourism in the deserts is on the up, and “desert safaris” are becoming increasingly fashionable.

The Castaglioni brothers brothers are unknown to me and may or may not come into the class of interested amateurs (by which I mean those who have a lot of knowledge but who don’t necessarily have the skills to excavate and interpret what they find). The wisdom of permitting desert investigation by tourists / amateurs has been the topic of much discussion in both Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt.

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