Nothing To Do With Wonder Woman
March 31, 2009 7:30 AM   Subscribe

"Percy Harrison Fawcett ... convinced himself, based on a mix of archival research, deduction and clairvoyance, that a large undiscovered city lay hidden somewhere in the Amazon" Greg Grandin of The Nation talks about the allure of the Amazon in history and the repeated attempts made to domesticate, colonize, control, or explore it. previous discussion of failed Amazon ventures here ( via )
posted by The Whelk (18 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
And previous discussion of Percy Harrison Fawcett here
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 7:50 AM on March 31, 2009

This was sorta covered recently in this post. I'm waiting to get this book from the library. It really looks fascinating. This comment from the other thread had some great links - especially the links dealing with terra preta (biochar).
posted by billysumday at 7:51 AM on March 31, 2009

If you don't find the Amazon, do you end up feeling like a right tit?
posted by MuffinMan at 7:52 AM on March 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is this by the guy who was on the Colbert Report a while back?
posted by delmoi at 8:05 AM on March 31, 2009

MetaFilter: a mix of archival research, deduction and clairvoyance
posted by DU at 8:12 AM on March 31, 2009

A post about an eccentric European being drawn to the Amazon and I'm not even the first Herzog link. Sigh.
posted by geoff. at 8:26 AM on March 31, 2009

If I was a Crazy Billionaire, I would spend some time building a fake-yet-authentic looking lost city in the jungle somewhere. It would be rigged with hidden cameras, boulder-traps, and golden idols. I would hire a bunch of actors to play the local natives and would wait for the cast and crew of Douchebags Meddle With Native Cultures to show up.

Then, dressed in my custom made suit of reflective armor and armed with a laser crossbow, the real fun would begin.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:35 AM on March 31, 2009 [6 favorites]

Another previous on Fawcett, or at least on his sighting of a dog with two noses.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:09 AM on March 31, 2009

I swear if this whole thing is a viral for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls......
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:43 AM on March 31, 2009

Well, there were cities in the Amazon, some of them vast by contemporaneous standards. Like most pre-columbian civilizations, they are a challenge for European and Asian civilizations to understand... or even recognize. The Incas and their forbears, for instance, looked at pretty much every technological problem as a job for advanced textiles. Fabric boats, bridges, armor... they used cotton like the Eurasians used iron.

In the Amazon, it gets much stranger. They had massive civilizations built around gardening. If you're a conquistador or adventurer, how do you even understand you're walking throuhg a city? It looks like a bunch of damn trees... and it is, dotted with small communities linked by very good roads and irrigation works into a large metropolis. Their civil engineering was a match for any of the other ancients... and their horticulture was on another level completely. Their artifacts (and the Amazon is lousy with them) are almost entirely pottery - which the Amazonians deliberately shattered into useless shards, and trampled into the ground to make fertilizer - and orchards that have turned feral and slipped back into untamed jungle.

As a civilization, they were prosperous and populous, before Smallpox wiped it all away. Now, an explorer seeking a lost city won't find any gold idols or massive temples, but they will come away with some darn tasty fruits and vegetables any time of year. It may not be El Dorado, but I think it has more to teach us than the pyramids and gold idols of its neighbors.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:55 AM on March 31, 2009 [12 favorites]

Methinks The Whelk lives in the Kansas City metro area.

Up To Date was covering this on KCUR this morning.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 10:11 AM on March 31, 2009

Well. That tears it. If we had any hope of the Amazon betraying her secrets to us it looks like we should've killed Klaus Kinski when we had the chance. Now it's too late.
posted by tkchrist at 10:49 AM on March 31, 2009

"Indeed they are Burhanistan." he said while raising a Roman Gladius.

"Indeed they are."
posted by The Whelk at 11:33 AM on March 31, 2009

In the Amazon, it gets much stranger. They had massive civilizations built around gardening. If you're a conquistador or adventurer, how do you even understand you're walking through a city?

Wait, you're saying they were Wood Elves?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:14 PM on March 31, 2009

I've never heard of this particular explorer before. I'll definitely check out the book.
posted by Calzephyr at 2:32 PM on March 31, 2009

If you are interested in pre-Columbian cultures, I recently read and enjoyed 1491 by Charles Mann, who basically summarizes current scientific knowledge that has not yet made it to the popular culture. There were a lot more Native Americans before the Europeans showed up than popular (19th/20th) century culture believed. European explorers would remark on how fruitful the land was, but didn't realize they were walking through the orchards of people who died out 50-100 years before the explorers got there, thanks to the spread of disease.
posted by fings at 8:27 PM on March 31, 2009

I bought the book on a whim after seeing that Colbert Report interview. Haven't been able to put the book down; thoroughly recommend it for anyone!
posted by the cydonian at 8:29 PM on March 31, 2009

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