An expert on Egyptian history thinks he's figured out what happened to an army of 50,000 men that seemingly vanished in the Egyptian desert around 524 BC, reports Nature World News. Legend has it that the "lost army of Cambyses" got swallowed up in a sandstorm, an account passed on by none other than Greek historian Herodotus. But if so, then why hasn't any trace of the men turned up despite scores of archaeological expeditions? Because there was no sandstorm, says professor Olaf Kaper at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Instead, he argues via a university news release, the soldiers suffered a far more conventional fate: They got whupped by a rebel army.
"Since the 19th century, people have been looking for this army: amateurs, as well as professional archaeologists," says Kaper. "Some expect to find somewhere under the ground an entire army, fully equipped." By his account, Persian King Cambyses sent the troops into the desert toward a place called the Dachla Oasis to put down a revolt, but a rebel leader named Petubastis III ambushed and defeated them, then named himself pharaoh. Two years later, Persian King Darius I put an end to the revolt and, according to Kaper's theory, practiced some spin control. He made up the story about the sandstorm because he figured it would be better for people to think that natural elements, not a military foes, were responsible. Kaper says he pieced all this together based on inscriptions of ancient temple blocks unearthed in the Dachla Oasis, reports Sci-News. He was to present his theory at an international conference, and there's no word yet whether other Egyptologists are on board. (Elsewhere in Egypt, archaeologists have turned up "end of the world" plague victims from the third century.)