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The lost cities of the Amazon

Back in the 16th century Spanish explorers reported finding gleaming white cities in Amazonia, which are prompting investigations into locating the lost cities of the Amazon. NPR has posted a 5 minute audio segment featuring interviews with those who are searching.

FORERO: There are detractors, of course, who say the new theories are based more on wishful thinking than science. But these days, conferences assembling hundreds of archaeologists convene to discuss the new findings. And there are acclaimed books about the discoveries, like Charles Mann’s “1491” and David Grann’s “Lost City of Z.”

The new thinking has given much more credence to the reports the Spanish explorers penned in the early 1500s. They had written about finding cities gleaming white. But because there were no majestic stone ruins – and later generations of explorers encountered primitive bands of hunters – science considered that Amazonia had pretty much always been the way it is today. Then came Anna Roosevelt and her excavations in the late 1980s at Marajo Island at the mouth of the Amazon.

Dr. ANNA ROOSEVELT (Archaeologist): They have magnitude. They have complexity. They are amazing, and they are not primitive.

FORERO: She spoke of the civilization she uncovered after finding elaborate pottery, house foundations and signs of extensive agriculture. Many others later followed deep into the jungle, including Augusto Oyuela, the University of Florida archaeologist.

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