Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Atlantis in Bolivia? Volume 55 Number 4, July/August 2002
by Alexei Vranich

The Scientific Research Society's Kota Mama Expedition, inspired by claims of a former RAF air photo interpreter that he had located Plato's Atlantis in the Bolivian Altiplano, will embark on the fourth phase of exploration in Bolivia this August.

To make the case for Precolumbian transoceanic contact, the British-based expedition tried to navigate reed boats from Lake Titicaca to Africa, a feat that its website called a "smashing success." They did navigate the Amazon to the coast of Brazil, but their boats were motor-powered and carried part of the way on trucks.

Controversy erupted last summer when the group announced its discovery of the "lost city" of the Inka. Newspapers raved that El Dorado had at last been found, when in fact the expedition had only reidentified one of the many Precolumbian sites recorded in the 1950s by Hans Ertl, formerly Hitler's photographer. Retracing Ertl's survey, the group used dynamite to clear a six-mile path through the threatened subtropic forest of the eastern Andes.

A protest by local archaeologists was quickly quashed by the expedition's powerful allies, including the unpopular Bolivian president Hugo Banzer (who recently resigned because of poor health), made the godfather of the enterprise by expedition leader Colonel John Blashford-Snell. Because the expedition purports to be searching for lost cities--El Dorado and Atlantis--it can count on continued support. It currently receives funding from Nikon, Olympus, Suzuki, DHL, and American Airlines, and each expedition member pays between $3,000 and $5,000 to volunteer. The Bolivian archaeologists on the project, poorly paid by the state if at all, receive only transport, room, and board for their participation.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America