The legends of lost cities excite the adventure seeker in all of us. There is a sense of wonder and curiosity for such lore, be it the mythical Atlantis, the mighty Olympus, or the incredible Shangri-La. One such city from the legends is Paititi. Believed to be the city of Gold, its tales have inspired many to create fictional stories around them. From Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” to the ‘The Tomb Raider – Lara Croft’, Paititi finds mention in numerous fictional works. 

While to the common folk, the stories of Paititi might seem like myths, explorers and researchers have dedicated their entire lives to finding it. Their Quest has not always been fruitful, many have lost their lives, and countless have disappeared without a trace. But it wasn’t until 2016 that a probable location of the lost city was discovered. A remote location in the heart of the Amazonian Forest is believed to be the legendary city of Paititi.

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Paititi in Shadow of the Tomb Raider video game© tombraider.fandom.com/wiki/Paititi

In some traditional tales, Paititi is believed to be the last refuge of the Incans against the Spanish conquistadors. The Incans were one of the tribes or rulers of South America and were located in Peru in the 12th Century AD. These nature worshippers prayed to the Sun God – Inti. It is believed that the Incans hid their most prized possession, a Gold Sun diskbelieved to have magical powersin a bid to save it from the Spaniards. The hope of finding this valuable disk has pushed many explorers, treasure hunters and archaeologists into a quest to find Paititi. 

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A minted copy of the Incan Sun Disk © cit.li/coins/inca-sun-god

While the exploration for Paititi began in 1925, when Percy Harrison Fawcett, the inspiration for Indian Jones, started looking for the lost city, to himself being never found again. Since then, many expeditions have been carried out in search of Paititi. But it wasn’t until 2001 when a written mention of Paititi was found. An Italian archaeologist Mario Polia discovered a report dating back to 1600 by Andres Lopez, a Christian missionary in the Vatican archives. Lopez described a large city of gold, silver, and jewels in the middle of the tropical Amazonian jungle. 

While no distinct location had been marked, it led researchers to believe that Paititi lies east of the Andes, hidden within the remote rainforests of southeast Peru, northern Bolivia or northwest Brazil

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Efforts at Mapping Paititi © ancientpages.com

It was due to this remote location and the treacherous journey it requires through dense mountains, ravines and deadly forests that Paititi lay hidden for so long. While technological advancements have come to the aid of explorers, the city is believed to be overgrown and veiled by the jungle. After a lot of efforts, researchers have now identified a location amidst the Peruvian jungle, a mountaintop almost flat and square that could be the lost city of Paititi.

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The Square Mountaintop near a square lake, the supposed location of Paititi ©Astrium-CNES

For its tales of gold and riches, a lost city so sought after leads one to wonder why it was forgotten. And the answer lies in the Incan way of life and history itself. The nature worshipper Incans always chose sites that were at a higher altitude and close to the water for monumental and religious buildings, as they considered these divine geographies and orientations. After the Spanish attacks, the Incans realised that they were being looted and all the resources that they held dear and divine were under threat. 

To save themselves and their legacy, they moved deeper into the forests and onto higher grounds to stop the Spaniards in their heavy armour from following them. It is believed that the Incans even erased traces of their roads and tracks to avoid being followed. While this kept the conquistadors at bay, it also cut off the refugee Incans from the rest of the world. Thus, with time as the jungles continued to take over, and the indigenous population dwindled, it is believed that Paititi was lost in time.

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Rock face carving by the Incans © Fernando S. Gallegos

There are still tribal and indigenous people living within the forest, who consider themselves Incan descendants and closely follow the age-old traditions that have been passed down through word of mouth. Of these, it was the Machiguenga Indians that first told French explorer Thiery Jamin of a strange mountain that hides the ruins of an old city. 

In June 2012, the French company Astrium helped obtain satellite photos of this square-shaped mountain, surrounded by deep chasms. A hundred meters away from this mountain, two twin lakes and a suspiciously square-shaped lake reinstate the idea of the mountain being a stronghold, as the Incans always built around water. This site looked not only strategic but also easy to defend and difficult to invade.

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The women of Matsiguengas tribe ©Thierry Jamin

The road to discovering Paititi is strenuous and dangerous. The terrain, flora, and fauna lie in defence as if, in agreement with the late Incans, to protect the city for as long as possible. Yet then, the French explorer, Jamin, has been trying to unearth the Lost City. But such monumental tasks require huge finances, advanced technologies, pieces of equipment and most importantly, support from world organisations and governments.  

French explorer Thierry Jamin during an expedition in the tropical forests ©Thierry Jamin

While the search for Paititi continues, all of Peru and the world lies in wait to witness the riches and gold that Paititi hides. For some, this gold is the fame and glory that comes with the discovery of the Lost City, while for others, it’s the connection it reinstates with their lost heritage. As it is said: “What is lost, will be found.” It seems Paititi is finally ready to be rediscovered.

Reference

Dobson, J. (2016, Jan 11). How the Discovery of Paititi, The Lost City of Gold, May Change Peru Forever. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2016/01/11/move-over-machu-picchu-the-discovery-of-paititi-the-secret-city-of-gold-may-change-peru-forever/?sh=35749ec5e852

Author

Prerna is an urban design enthusiast, looking at the world with a critical eye. She often finds herself using pen and paper to untangle the wires running in her head. She believes that the urban situation in India needs more research and hopes one day to be able to contribute to it successfully. Currently yo can find her overdosed on coffee with a ook in her hand.

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