Veteran U.S. Explorer Plans Last Expedition in Peru Savoy, 73, to Document Pre-Incan Amazon Ruins

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LIMA, Peru -- For more than 35 years, American explorer Gene Savoy has delved into the thick of Peru's Amazon jungle to reveal the lost ruins of ancient civilizations.

Now the 73-year-old is headed back for what he says will be his final expedition to document and preserve his last great find -- the vestiges of a pre-Incan city in the high cloud forest of northern Peru.

"It's a race against time because the word is out and looters are coming in," Savoy said. "We want to get in there and have the archaeologists document this historical treasure so it's not pillaged and lost to science."

He reported finding Gran Saposoa, about 340 miles north of Lima, last June after an 18-day expedition. The site measures about 25 square miles and includes stone roads weaving through a network of massive terraced cliffs dotted with at least 36 burial towers, many with protruding carved faces.

Savoy believes the ruins are Cajamarquilla, one of seven legendary cities belonging to the Chachapoyas, a tribe of warriors conquered by the Incas in the 15th century.

Now he is returning with a group of 65 people that includes archaeologists, an armed detail of the national police and a team of expert climbers. The expedition for Gran Saposoa leaves Sept. 11.

In the two months since he left Gran Saposoa, robbers have looted several of the burial sites.

Savoy, a former journalist who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, is not an archaeologist -- a fact he readily admits. He discovers a site, then leaves it in the hands of the scientists.

The still robust explorer, who lives most of the year in Reno, Nev., where he directs the Andean Explorers Foundation, has irked many academics with his theories. …