In 2001, Mario Polia, an Italian archaeologist, found a letter in the archives of the Vatican. It was a manuscript of the mid-sixteenth century of the Spanish Jesuit Andrés López. This letter recounts a 10-day trip that the Incas made between Cuzco and Paititi, a kingdom or a city where there was more gold than in Cuzco.
Along with this manuscript was the papal authorization to evangelize Paititi by the Jesuits, although they never gave more clues of the exact location, to avoid “gold fever”.
This famous fever had led to a rampant persecution of the Spanish conquistadors (remember that they were mostly inmates) of any vestige of gold. Francisco Pizarro, a former pig keeper, had arrived in Cajamarca (Peru) in 1532 and began the sacking of the Inca empire. The abundant gold was used only for decorative elements and seemed inexhaustible. In fact, Pizarro executed Atahualpa (the last Inca, name held by the sovereign) even having received the ransom for it, which consisted of a room of 6 by 4 meters full of gold and two silver.
Before the requirements of the conquerors on the origin of so much gold, the Incas always responded that they were “beyond” any city, where the ambitious warriors were presented. I do not know if the affirmation is true or to get rid of them. The case is that the legend of El Dorado is born, a hypothetical city full of gold, just as they had been in Cuzco, for example, the temple of the korikancha, with gold-plated stone walls with niches where the solid ones were located and heavy statues of precious metal.
Throughout the centuries, many have been the archaeologists, explorers and seekers of fortune who have died in their attempt to find El Dorado. The survivors never found their whereabouts. Today it is no longer the thirst for gold that guides the new discoverers, but again they want to find the location of the mythical city, driven by that recent discovery of the letter of the sixteenth century.
It is known that at the bottom of Lake Titikaka are treasures thrown by the Incas before their fall into Spanish hands, but the difficulty of diving probably leaves them forever in the background. However, this is not the historical place to locate the golden city. El Dorado may not have existed, but what was clear was that there was Paititi, northeast of Cuzco, there was more gold there than in the capital of the Inca empire itself.
Paititi is considered today the great archeological enigma of South America. There is an area at the distance described by the famous letter (10 days of walking), in the jungles of the Madre de Dios River, like the Pantiacolla plateau, where what Paititi has been discovered can be discovered. In 1996, Greg Deyermenjian, discovered the Paratoari pyramids in that jungle, despite arriving on foot and flying them in a small plane. He has not been able to determine whether they are natural or artificial constructions because of the extensive foliage that covers them.
Deyermenjian is leaving his life exploring Peru, obsessed with Paititi, in the same way that Hiram Bingham did with Vilcabamba but discovering Machu Picchu. However, it was in 2002 when an international team, guided by the letter discovered in the Vatican a year earlier, thirty researchers led by Jacek Palkiewicz, who after two years of expedition announced the discovery of the Inca city of Paititi. It is located in an area adjacent to the Manu National Park, between the departments of Cuzco and Madre de Dios, just 10 days from the road to Cuzco.
In the 17th century the legend about Paititi placed it under a lagoon, on a plateau of 4 square kilometers and covered entirely with vegetation. Up to this point, this international team arrived, discovering with its georradores an important network of caverns and tunnels under the lagoon. But no treasure has been found.
Five centuries ago gold pushed to risk the lives of the conquerors. Today explorers and adventurers continue to risk not for the gold but for the thrill and glory of the discovery; such was the case of Lars Hafksjold, a Norwegian anthropologist who disappeared in 1997 in the waters of the Madidi River. Some mysteries are resolved but under the Amazon jungle there will still be something hidden, waiting for some adventurers to bring it to light.
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