El Dorado, Legendary Lost City of Gold
Since the time of the conquistadors, the legend of an ancient, lost civilization deep in the Amazon forest has beguiled hundreds of explorers and led many to their deaths. Some called their dream El Dorado.
Others, most notably Colonel Percy Fawcett, the gloriously mustached British explorer (and real-life model for Indiana Jones) named it the City of Z. But no one has ever returned from the Amazon with conclusive proof that such a place existed.
Three scientists have now come close to doing just that. The journal antiquity has published a report showing more than 200 massive earthworks in the upper Amazon basin near Brazil’s border with Bolivia.
From the sky it looks as if a series of geometric figures has been carved into the earth, but thearcheologists and historians who published the report believe these shapes are the remains of roads, bridges, moats, avenues and squares that formed the basis for a sophisticated civilization spanning 155 miles, which could have supported a population of 60,000. The remains date from AD200 to 1283.
It is an astonishing find — one that builds on recent archeological work in Brazil and northern Bolivia and the availability of Google Earth images of deforested sections of the Amazon. Since the 1980s anthropologists have begun to uncover evidence of advanced civilisations who lived in the Amazon basin: this latest development trumps them all.
David Grann, author of “The Lost City of Z,” believes the importance of this discovery cannot be understated. “It shatters the prevailing notions of what the Amazon looked like before the arrival of Christopher Columbus,” he says.
“For centuries, scientists assumed the jungle was simply a death trap, a ‘counterfeit paradise’ where only small, primitive, nomadic tribes existed. These discoveries show the Amazon was, in fact, home to a large civilization that pre-dated the Incas and built an extraordinarily sophisticated society with monumental earthworks.”