A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Books: Lost in the Land of Z
Volume 62 Number 3, May/June 2009
Imagine trudging through the Amazonian jungle, fighting off cyanide-squirting millipedes, electric eels, and vampire bats, for a chance to discover a lost civilization. That was the ambition of Colonel Perry Harrison Fawcett, who gained worldwide renown for his death-defying feats of survival, according to David Grann in The Lost City of Z (Doubleday, $27.50), his gripping account of Fawcett's risky encounters with the Amazon.
A geologist and amateur archaeologist, Fawcett believed that a highly advanced lost civilization, which he dubbed "Z," had once thrived in the seemingly hostile jungle. He hoped to discover a lost civilization with vast cities containing great plazas, temples, roadways, and moats.
In May 1925, Fawcett, his 21-year-old son Jack, and his son's best friend, Raleigh Rimmel, set out to find Z but vanished without a trace. Despite countless expeditions into the jungle, Fawcett's fate remains unknown. Grann follows in the footsteps of the "Fawcett freaks," people who continue the search, not for Fawcett himself, but for evidence of a great civilization in the Xingo region of northeastern Brazil.
Braving swamps and rain forest, Grann meets up with University of Florida archaeologist Michael Heckenberger, who's been working in the Xingo region for 13 years and living among the descendants of people who have occupied the area for 800 to 1,600 years. Heckenberger takes the author on a tour of one of the ancient settlements he has discovered, pointing out evidence for moats, walls, giant plazas, and temples, clearly the remains of a man-made landscape. Fawcett would have felt vindicated.Share