A 'Lost and Found' City in Peru Gets New Perspective
Bower, Bruce, Science News
The recent expedition by four Coloradoans to a "lost city" in the Peruvian Andes (SN: 2/9/85, p. 84) promises to pave the way for valuable scientific research. There were, however, two problems with initial reports of the discovery. Gran Pajaten, the ancient city that attracted so much attention, has been relatively well known for over 20 years and was not "lost." In addition, this will not be the first scientific study of the site; two Peruvian archaeologists published preliminary findings on Gran Pajaten in monograph and a journal article in the late 1960s.
"Gran Pajaten is a legendary found city," says Daniel Buck of Washington D.C., a former Peace Corps volunteer in Peru who has put together a list of 19 publications that have discussed the ruins since 1967. Buck and several others familiar with Peruvian archaeology provided SCIENCE NEWS with background information on the site.
"In 1963 Gran Pajaten was a lost city, but it's not anymore", says anthropologist Douglas Sharon of the San Diego (Calif.) Museum of Man.
Sharon was part of the first North American expedition to reach the site in 1964 and 1965. The cluster of buildings was named Gran Pajaten by expedition leader Douglas Eugene Savoy, an explorer from the United States. Over the next decade, Savoy was the main popularizer of the "lost city," writing about it in books and encouraging media coverage.
Savoy, Sharon and company were guided to the ruins by Carlos Torrealba, who was part of the first group to discover Gran Pajaten in 1963. Torrealba also guided last summer's expedition. He still lives in Pataz, a village near Gran Pajaten. At Torrealba's insistence, the Peruvian government sent two archaeologists to the site in 1965 and 1966 for preliminary investigations, which led to the publication of a monograph and a journal article.
Since then, Gran Pajaten has appeared on several maps of Peru. The 1985 edition of The South American Handbook even recommends that visitors to the area check with a nearby tourist office for directions to the ruins.
"We never said we discovered the site," responds archaeologist Thomas Lennon of the University of Colorado in Boulder, a leader of last summer's expedition. "But it's tremendously difficult to get there; it's not an area a tourist could easily visit. …