The Search for the Lost City

"Strange symbols attract strange seekers." That was my conclusion as a child after taking many foreigners to visit the petroglyphs in the hills of Amambay. They all came in pursuit of clues to prove their own theories, driven by the desire to understand and explore the world. 

I think often about those earlier trips to the rock art sites, about following with my fingers the contours of the symbols left in the rock wall, hoping that maybe in that way I could unlock their secrets. I remember listening attentively to my father and the rest of the grownups speak, as they discussed the theories of the meaning behind the strange symbols. 

A campesino was sure that they were clues left to indicate where the treasure of Mariscal was buried. The treasure would vary from clay urns full of gold coins, to a buried golden piano. 

Paraguayan treasure hunters damage to the environment in search of the hidden gold. 

Paraguayan treasure hunters damage to the environment in search of the hidden gold. 

A man from the capital, who had trouble hiking,  insisted that they were made by intra-terrestrials. I never heard of them, but I assumed it was because I was only a kid,  and later I found that that they were like aliens, but instead of living in other planets they lived inside the earth. 

This is a mock up of one of the giant boulders we explored in search of petroglyphs that people believed were part of the intra-terrestrials conspiracy. 

This is a mock up of one of the giant boulders we explored in search of petroglyphs that people believed were part of the intra-terrestrials conspiracy. 

An old Pai Tavytera, dressed in hand me down army olive drab, stated that the symbols were left by their forefathers, but sadly the Paraguayans dismissed what he had to say.

As a child I already knew that they were not made by aliens, or even clues to the gold left during the war,  you could tell it was human made and they were messages. As I traced my fingers along the symbols I wondered, Only if there was a way to unlock the message, only if there was a way to understand what the symbols meant. 

The petroglyph that we refer to as "The Solar Map"

The petroglyph that we refer to as "The Solar Map"

This desire to know the unknown is an universal human feeling, as we all try to make sense of the world, but sometimes that desire can take hold of a person and drive them in pursuits that put one's life in danger, or have fatal consequences. 

Such is the case of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who explored the area of Mato Grosso, the Brazilian state adjacent to the Amambay Hills in search of a lost city. Fawcett followed clues left in petroglyphs in his search of his legendary lost civilization he called Z. 

I learned about Fawcett's journey on the book "The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon" by David Grann. Its interesting to see the search of a hidden lost city in the area whered I used to live in, and see the role the petroglyphs that we seek to protect and document in our movie have played in the exploration of the Amazon.

Fawcett's courage is admirable, specially to continue his exploration, while sacrificing so much of himself and his family, in pursuit of his lost city. Fawcett not only had to battle the deadly elements of the jungle, but many opposition and naysayers back home. 

Jackson on the far right in his lost city. 

Jackson on the far right in his lost city. 

This desire to seek a hidden lost city has bitten many people across time, and one of them is my own brother, Jackson Weaver, who spent many years scouring the hills of Amambay in some pretty gnarly adventures,  such as getting chased by angry indians when he was trespassing on a sacred site, to having to infiltrate caves full of bats, and carry a huge stone that contained the petroglyph that we call the solar map on his back to the protected Cerro Cora National Park, before it was taken by robbers or vandals. 

 Jackson has fought many naysayers himself, similar to those who Fawcett had to face,  and had to overcome many roadblocks in his exploration of the Amambay hills.

After many years searching, Jackson found what he believed to be a lost city in 2013. He received a lot of press attention in the Paraguayan newspaper and sites around the world.

I don't know what he has found in the jungle, if is a natural or human made structures,  as I have not visited the site myself, since it requires a police escort as the site is one of the most dangerous area in Amambay, because of local drug trade and local militias.

Perry Fawcet as despicted on the documentary Lost in the Amazon -Secrets of the Dead by PBS

Perry Fawcet as despicted on the documentary Lost in the Amazon -Secrets of the Dead by PBS

What drives people like my brother Jackson, or Fawcett?

National Geographic writes about the "wanderlust gene" the desire to explore that comes from:

A gene called DRD4, which helps control dopamine, a chemical brain messenger important in learning and reward. Researchers have repeatedly tied the variant, known as DRD4-7R and carried by roughly 20 percent of all humans, to curiosity and restlessness. Dozens of human studies have found that 7R makes people more likely to take risks; explore new places, and generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.

I think the desire to seek knowledge even if putting one's life in danger is about finding something greater than ourselves, and being redeemed by the quest. This pursuit can be noble, but also is what eventually made Percy Fawcett disappear on the jungle. So I hope my brother is safe as he continue his adventures and remember this wise words:

“The adventures may be mad, but the adventurer must be sane.”
— ― G.K. Chesterton