Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Lost Cities: Lost Inka City of Patiti Found ... Again

The legend of El Dorado, or this case the variant of the Inka city of Patiti, crops up about every six months when a new impressive stone ruin is found in the jungles of South America. Here's the current candidate.

I can't blame them, of course. I remember the false alarms around finding Copan royal founder Yax K'uk' Mo', before his tomb was finally identified for certain. El Mirador was overlooked for decades before it was rediscovered as the greatest of all Maya cities, transforming the picture of early Maya civilization, and Tikal has the Mundo Perdido or "Lost World" pyramid which has a similar history. And closer to Patiti, there is always the tantalizing memory of the lost city of Macchu Picchu, discovered right at the peak of popular interest in explorers and lost cities and other colonial-era fantasticalness.

Back in college, I remember being amazed by the discovery of Ubar using space shuttle imagery and remote sensing to find camel and foot paths. The Moskitia of Honduras has the enduring legend of the White City, Ciudad Blanca. It too is looked for (here's an example) and sometimes found time and again. Initially supposed to be a city of gleaming white stone buildings, in the 20th century viewed from the air in addition to the old tales, it has also taken on the meaning over time of being a lost city of White people. This of course brings to mind the older medieval stories of Prester John and later colonial myths and fiction of lost Roman legions that brought civilization to Africa, reflected in the treatment of Great Zimbabwe. The British Empire had a lost city of its own, Camelot, which has been identified several times, including at Tintagel in Cornwall.

EDIT: Looks like Patiti is still lost

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