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BOOK REVIEW: "The Lost City of Z" by David Grann

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BOOK REVIEW: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (Vintage) 2009

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for mysteries involving lost civilizations, be it Atlantis or Mu or Lemuria or the alleged Gobi Desert area that was once lush and “the real sons of God” resided.

And some think there is a hidden land inside the Earth, with portals located at the Earth’s poles.

Allegedly, of course.

These are legends. But some legends contain kernels of truth, as Col. Percy H. Fawcett, an early 20th century British explorer believed.

In 2015 I reviewed a book called Exploration Fawcett, (on the suggestion of a comrade in India) about Col. Fawcett’s obsessive desire to find “Z,” a lost city deep in the treacherous Amazon region of western Brazil, a trek that ended in 1925 with his ultimate disappearance, along with his son and his son’s companion.

The book is fascinating and was compiled by Fawcett’s other son, Brian, in the early 1950’s. Ultimately, though, Brian Fawcett says that “(i)t is possible that the riddle” of his father’s disappearance, “may never be solved.”

And so over the decades many “Fawcett freaks” have ventured into the dangerous rainforests, many woefully unprepared, and many never coming home, in hopes of finding evidence of Fawcett or perhaps even the location of “Z,” the lost city of “precious stones” and timid, “clothed natives of European appearance.” Indeed, Fawcett was one of the last British explorers of the Victorian era and something about his quest … and his vanishing act … have fascinated countless adventurers – including journalist David Grann.

Grann read Exploration Fawcett as well, and traveled to London, Rio de Janeiro and the Amazonian rainforest to learn more about Fawcett, the dangers he faced, and the locations he visited before disappearing into the history books.

Grann’s account is a great companion to Exploration Fawcett (if you are able to track down a reprinted copy) in that there is information in the former that is not in the latter and vice versa. 

In Grann's book, he talks of "strange papers" found amongst Fawcett's collection, as found by son Brian. Grann writes that in the year prior to what would be his final expedition, Col. Fawcett "filled his papers with reams of delirious writings about the end of the world and aabout a mystical Atlantean kingdom, which resembled the Garden of Eden. Z was transformed into the 'cradle of all civilizations' and the center of one of Blavatsky's 'White Lodges,' where a group of higher spiritual beings helped to direct the fate of the universe."

Continuing, Brian Fawcett isn't clear if his father's goal was a Theosophical-inspried "spiritual objective" or something else, adding, "Fawcett hope to discover a White Lodge that had been there since 'the time of Atlantis,' and to attain transcendence."

The narrative and journey Grann has us embark on is exciting and full of mystery, although times are changing in the deepest Amazon, with more indigenous peoples being exposed to the outside world. It is thought that Fawcett and his companions simply were attacked and killed by an unfriendly native tribe. Or they died of disease and/or hunger. 

And evidence has been found of some sort of ancient city, as noted by Grann when he reports on the findings of archaeologist Michael Heckenberger. In the Xingu region of the Amazon, in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, a city surrounded by a moat and in concentric circles could be with city Fawcett and others sought. And because it was crafted with wood, instead of stone, it simply rotted away more quickly leaving little trace in the tropical climate.

A film called The Lost City of Z, based on Fawcett's travels and disappearance (starring Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett and Robert Pattinson a friend Cpl. Costin) is coming out this spring and should renew interest in the man and the obsession that, in all likelihood, took his life.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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