Magazine article Science News

Raiders of the 'Lost City'

Magazine article Science News

Raiders of the 'Lost City'

Article excerpt

Inspired by legend and sketchy reports, four Coloradoans--an archaeologist, two surgeons and a businessman -- have worked their way through the dense rain forest of PEru's Andes Mountains and uncovered what they say is a "lost city" that dates back to before the Incas, around A.D. 500.

"We've found an unstudied civilization and an unnamed people," says archaeologist Thomas J. Lennon of the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the explorers. "The site has been the subject of rumors and unsuccessful expeditions since the beginning of this century, but this is the first scientific study of the area." The find, he adds, may rival the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

The array of buildings, burial towers, tombs, terraced fields and assorted artifacts is perched on a steep, eastern slope of the Andes, 8,600 feet above sea level. The site, known as Gran Pajaten, contains the remnants of a culture that probably existed for about 1,000 years, until the demise of the Inca empire around A.D. 1500, says Lennon. The five-day trip from the nearest village to Gran Pajaten is possible only from June to August, when the rainfall, which can reach 230 inches annually, diminishes. Gran Pajaten is located in the tropical jungles of the Rio Abiseo National Park.

In an agreement with the Peruvian government, American and Peruvian scientists will begin a five-year study at the remote site this summer. Investigations at other ancient ruins throughout the park may continue over the next 15 years, adds Lennon.

During last summer's initial expedition, Gran Pajaten was partially reclaimed from a thick coat of vines and trees. The explorers found 16 round, two-story buildings and two rectangular structures. The outside walls of many houses contain carved stone heads topped by stones resembling feather headdresses. Several houses are decorated with pre-Incan mosaics. …

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