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There are a number of ancient cities—considered myths by most authors—that some believe existed before written history, in different places on Earth.
The Lost City of Z, just like Atlantis is one such mysterious place.
The most famous person to ever search for this lost city was a man called Percy Harrison Fawcett a renowned explorer who tried discovering the long-lost city thought to remain hidden somewhere in the Amazon jungle.
According to myths and legends, the lost City of Z would have been erected in very ancient times by the descendants of Atlantis. It is believed that the Atlanteans who survived the destruction of their home and escaped to a number of different regions on Earth, and some of them ended up in the Amazon, where they eventually settled down.
Fawcett made eight expeditions, disappearing in the last in strange circumstances.
Did he find the lost city of Z in the Amazonian jungle? Could the Lost City of Z be connected to El Dorado and Atlantis? And what exactly happened to Fawcett in his last expedition?
No one seems to have answers for these questions.
But where to stories about massive cities made of gold, inhabited by powerful beings come from?
We can say that part of the stories come from the old continent. In other words, when the Europeans explorers began arriving at the Americas, the myths and legends of supernatural creatures and pseudo-human tribes slowly gave way to stories of massive ancient cities hidden in the heart of the jungle.
But what exactly is the reason?
Some authors would argue that thanks to the abundance of indigenous communities that the Europeans faced and their exuberant religious rites fed the European fantasies which quickly spread.
Thinking of a great civilization whose wealth one cannot imagine was quickly acknowledged as a common idea. An idea that would later—acoridng to many authors—become known as the legend of El Dorado and that, moreover, satisfied the delirious hunger for gold of the first, and several of the following, visitors to the continent.
The Lost City of Z and Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett
Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett was a British explorer who named the Lost City of Z in 1912 after finding an ancient document titled Manuscript 512, kept in the National Library of Brazil. It is believed that his conviction was fed in part due to the rediscovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu in 1911.
The document—Manuscript 512—is believed to have been authored by Portuguese Bandeirantes, João da Silva Guimarães, who allegedly discovered the ruins of a mighty ancient city, containing arches, statues, and temples covered in hieroglyphs, deep in the Amazonian Jungle in 1753. While Guimarães described the city in great detail, he failed to give off its location.
The enigmatic manuscript is completed with curious details, such as documenting the discovery of a bag of gold coins bearing the silhouette of an archer and a crown, or the reproduction of hieroglyphs copied from various corners of the city, which some say bare an uncanny similarity with Greek and Phoenician letters.
In some way, Fawcett was obsessed with lost cities.
Throughout his travels, Fawcett had heard rumors of a secret ancient underground city located ‘somewhere’ in the jungles of Chile, which, according to tales, legends, and reports, was made of streets paved with silver and roofs of gold.
Fawcett wrote about the Lost City of Z in a letter to his son in 1912:
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.
The mystery behind Fawcett’s disappearance
So, what happened to one of the most famous explorers in history?
In 1921, the first expedition to find the Lost City of Z was assembled by Fawcett. His search for Z culminated with his disappearance and the appearance of many myths and tales surrounding his faith.
His last expedition was set in March in April of 1925, this time financed by newspapers and societies such as the Royal Geographic Society and the Rockefellers. Fawcett was certain that his expedition would culminate with the discovery of the mythical city.
In May of 1925, the expeditions had reached the edge of uncharted territory, exploring an area that no foreigner had ever dared crossing.
Fawcett’s beliefs were greatly influenced on what the Indians had told him about alleged Lost Cities spread across the Amazon jungle. Even his penultimate letter – nine days before he mysteriously vanished, mentions one such tale.
Correspondence from Colonel Fawcett dated May 20th, 1925
“I saw the Indian chief Roberto and had a talk with him.
Under the expanding influence of wine he corroborated all my Cuyaba friend told me, and more. Owing to what his grandfather had told him, he always wanted to make the journey to the waterfall, but is now tot old. He is of the opinion that bad Indians are numerous there, but committed himself to the statement that his ancestors had built the old cities. This I am inclined to doubt, for he, like the Mechinaku Indians, is of the brown or Polynesian type, and it is the fair or red type I associate with the cities.”
The team traveled into territory that no one had ever seen. They faced many dangers, but they wouldn’t give up. Eventually, they reached an area called ‘Dead Horse Camp’ when Fawcett sent back dispatches for another five months, finally stopping after the fifth. In this dispatch, he would send a letter to his wife saying (dated 29th May 1925):
“My dear Nina,
The attempt to write is fraught with much difficulty, thanks to the legions of flies that pester one from dawn till dusk – and sometimes all through the night! The worst are the tiny ones that are smaller than a pinhead, almost invisible, but sting like a mosquito. Clouds of them are always present. Millions of bees add to the plague, and other bugs galore, stinging horrors that get all over ones hands. Even the head nets won’t keep them out, and as for mosquito nets, the pests fly through them! It is quite maddening.
We hope to get through this region in a few days, and are camped here for a while to arrange for the return of the peons, who are anxious to get back, having had enough of it – and I don’t blame them. We go on with eight animals – three saddle mules, four cargo mules, and a madrinha, a leading animal which keeps the others together. Jack is well and fit and getting stronger every day, even though he suffers a bit from insects.
I myself am bitten or stung by ticks, and these piums, as they call the tiny ones, all over the body. It is Raleigh I am anxious about. He still has one leg in a bandage but won’t go back. So far we have plenty of food and no need to walk, but I am not sure how long this will last. There may be little for the animals to eat as we head further in. I cannot hope to stand up on this journey better than Jack or Raleigh – my extra years tell, though I do my best to make up for it with enthusiasm – but I had to do this.
I calculate that I shall contact the Indians in about a week, perhaps ten days, when we should be able to reach the much talked-about waterfall.
Here we are at Dead Horse Camp, Lat. 110 43’ S and 540 35’ W, the spot where my horse died in 1920. Only his white bones remain. We can bathe ourselves here, but the insects make it a matter of great haste. Nevertheless, the season is good. It is very cold at night and fresh in the morning, but the insects and heat are out in full force come mid-day, and from then until evening it is sheer misery in camp.
You need have no fear of any failure ….”
Those were the final words of Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett.
Two years passed and nothing was heard from Fawcett nor his team.
This resulted in many expeditions being launched in order to find them.
Mysteriously, each expedition suffered the same fate as Fawcett’s.
Fawcett’s disappearance resulted in a total of 13 expeditions being mounted in which more than a hundred people lost their lives, attempting to find not only Fawcett but the Legendary Lost City of Z as well.
No one knows what exactly happened to Fawcett, his expedition and to more than one hundred people that set out to search for him.
Numerous theories were proposed eventually.
Some say Fawcett and his team were killed by an Amazonian tribe, while otters suggest they may have starved, drowned, or suffered a disease. There are some who also say that they may have been robbed and killed by bandits in the region.
Featured Image Credit: Leon Tukker. Posted with permission.