In the 1920s, adventurer Colonel Percy Fawcett (above, left) set out to find the lost city of Z which he believed to be related to the lost continent of Atlantis. He was also convinced that reports of Dominican friar Gaspar de Carvajal on the (1541) expedition of Francisco Orellana about a cultured people who used gold in ceremonies living in the Amazon jungle are clues to the lost city he sought, although it wasn't really El Dorado he sought, it was Z. Fawcett disappeared, as if swallowed up by the Amazon.
In a letter to his son, Fawcett described the city of Z:
There are many theories as to what happened to Fawcett and his party. Perhaps the most popular one is recounted by Harold Wilkins in his book Mysteries of Ancient South America (1947). It was said that Fawcett was detained by natives and may have been forced to marry into a tribe. Subsequent testimonies of missionaries like the American Paul Guiley, included reports or fair-skinned and blue-eyed children in the forest supposedly the children and grandchildren of Fawcett and members of his party.I expect the ruins to be monolithic in character, more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries. Judging by inscriptions found in many parts of Brazil, the inhabitants used an alphabetical writing allied to many ancient European and Asian scripts. There are rumors, too, of a strange source of light in the buildings, a phenomenon that filled with terror the Indians who claimed to have seen it.The central place I call "Z" -- our main objective -- is in a valley surmounted by lofty mountains. The valley is about ten miles wide, and the city is on an eminence in the middle of it, approached by a barreled roadway of stone. The houses are low and windowless, and there is a pyramidal temple. The inhabitants of the place are fairly numerous, they keep domestic animals, and they have well-developed mines in the surrounding hills. Not far away is a second town, but the people living in it are of an inferior order to those of "Z." Farther to the south is another large city, half buried and completely destroyed.
We may never know the fate of Colonel Fawcett, but the other question remains: Did he find the lost city of Z? Who knows? But archaeologists today have made an amazing discovery that points to a vast and previously unknown civilization in the Amazon forest which could point to El Dorado, even Z. The structures of this complex, which stretches some 250 kilometers (currently known) were first identified through satellite imagery in 1999.
In subsequent years, farmers have exposed tracts of land for planting and have exposed strange geometric earthen formations cut into the ground with trenches as wide as 11 meters and with banks up to a meter high. Low mounds of earth excavated contained ceramics, charcoal, and grinding-stone fragments.There are also mounds that point north. Straight roads connected these structures (left). Archaeologists now believe that the complex is ten times larger than what was previously believed and had extensive urban planning.
The Amazon jungle earthen structures occupied both the lowlands and the highlands with the mountain habitations estimated to be populated by as many as 60,000 inhabitants. One of the sites has been dated to 1283, but others are possibly older at A.D. 300, according to anthropologist Denise Schaan (left; from a photo by Candace Voda) of the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil. It is believed that the people behind this civilization were destroyed with the coming of Europeans by invasions and diseases.
Are these earthen structures, the lost city of Z of Percy Fawcett? The Colonel's son, Brian Fawcett, narrated this in his book Ruins in the Sky (Hutchinson Ltd., London, 1957):
Yes, it was all here, exactly as described -- from the strategically placed forts by the river to the pectinated summits of the cliffs, it was all here -- but our vantage point showed us clearly enough that man had no part in its making... Thirty years is a long time. Had so many years not passed since my father's disappearance I might have felt more bitter than I did about the futility of his fate and that of the others -- three lives lost or ruined in the quest for an objective that never existed in fact... One part of my mission was accomplished; I now know the secret of the Brazilian 'Lost Cities.' (pp. 300-301)It's quite possible that Colonel Fawcett's lost city of Z is part of the vast civilization complex what archaeologists have discovered. But what's for certain is that the old notion that the Amazon jungle did not harbor complex urban networks is no more. It also showed that indeed, the people who lived there - like their descendants pictured here (left) used a type of man made fertile super soil which provided sustenance from crops and animals. Studies have shown this soil was made a thousand years ago and is still preseved and useful underneath the unfertile jungle topsoil.
Credit: photo of gilded man gold sculpture by Andrew Bertram from Wikipedia.
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