Lost city in the clouds. ARCHAEOLOGY NEWSFLASH 573
I invite you to come with me, now, on an adventure
you’ll never forget. What awaits you is an amazing journey
as you come face to face with a weird world of seemingly
In 1531, Spanish adventurers came to the faraway land of
the Inca empire, looking for treasure.
Led by Pizarro, they advanced from the coast, across the
desert and toward the Andes mountains.
From their mountain kingdom the Incas watched the advance
of these strangers and permitted them to approach in peace.
Had they been inclined, the Incas might easily have waylaid
this insignificant group of foreigners and wiped them out
quickly. But the Incas allowed them to progress across the
desert and into the green foothills of their empire.
It will help us to understand the situation if we realise that
honesty was an integral part of Inca society. Each year, men
were called from their farms to labor for the government for
a few months. In return, they were well looked after.
When a family was absent from their house for a length of
time, they simply angled a stick across their ever-open front
door – as a sign of their absence – and they could be certain
that no stranger would ever violate their property. Trusting
others was a way of life.
So the weary visitors were hospitably received.
The Inca himself came part way to meet the small band of
“strangely-dressed” Spaniards. Pizarro and his fortune seekers
were invited into the Inca camp. They were offered food on
vessels of gold and silver – which, to the Inca, were common
At the sight of such wealth, Pizarro’s greed spilled over.
Pizarro determined to take advantage of the unsuspicious
simplicity with which the Inca trusted him. So he invited the
Inca the next day to be HIS guest.
Next day, the Inca took all morning to get ready, adorning
himself in his greatest splendor and magnificence for his
meeting with Pizarro.
Then, he set out, preceded by heralds and musicians, and
attended by the Virgins of the Sun who strewed their emperor’s
road with flowers. The Inca arrived, sitting on a throne covered
with plates of gold and silver enriched with precious stones –
and carried on the shoulders of attendants.
Pizarro’s men were waiting to ambush the royal personage. The
Peruvians, astonished and defenceless, were cut down in
hundreds. And the Inca himself was seized. At first the people
could hardly believe what had happened.
The monarch was tossed into a small prison cell.
Soon he was to learn how greedy his captors were for gold.
Pizarro visited the Inca in his cell. He promised the Inca that
if his subjects would fill up the room with gold, up to a line
drawn near the ceiling, the Inca would then be set free.
The Inca responded, sending messages throughout the land.
His subjects stripped the temples and palaces.
The prison cell was filled up to the line with gold.
In his kindness, Pizarro thanked the Inca for being so generous
and said he would do him a favor in return. The Inca would not
die by burning (as was a pagan’s fate), but he would be strangled
instead– a more merciful reward.
And with the Inca died the empire.
It is claimed that his subjects, suddenly awakening to the greed
of the Spaniards, gathered most of their gold and hid it in
underground tunnels. So that barely ten per cent of the Inca gold
was ever found and seized.
This ten per cent was shipped to Europe. But most of the
galleons transporting this gold were sunk by the British and
others, as it made its way across the Atlantic. So that only about
ten per cent of that shipped gold ever reached Europe. But even
then, that small fraction of Inca gold was sufficient to swell
Europe’s gold wealth by 1,000 per cent.
The descendants of the once great empire today live simply as
did their ancestors. But socially and economically they remain
poor. The most common trait of the Andes Indian is SADNESS.
As the Spaniards tramped up and down through the land looking
for gold, there was one special place they missed… Machu
Picchu, a city suspended in the clouds.
Here were secrets the Spaniards never saw. And there were
other hidden valleys that they never found.
WHY THE ARCHAEOLOGIST GASPED
Would you like to know why American archaeologist Hyatt
Verrill gasped when he came upon one such a hidden valley in
“It is a human impossibility,” he exclaimed.
You are probably wondering, what did this archaeologist
discover – which he thought was “impossible”?
In case you have not seen the Andes mountains of South America,
let me paint a picture for you.
The giant mountains of the Peruvian Andes are awesome enough
—until one gazes up those extremely perilous slopes and
perceives death-defying ruins perched on the summits.
The setting is terrifyingly wild — mountains miles high vanishing
into the sky, notched with narrow ledges, slashed with ravines
and bottomless gorges.
It’s so dramatically beautiful, you couldn’t help but love it!
Waterfalls of an awesome beauty plunge from these immaculate
snowy peaks, down into the damp, unknown depths of the
canyons. So rare is the air that even the mules are obliged to
stop about every ten paces to catch their breath.
Here, “at the frontiers of the impossible,” a vanished
civilization set gems in stone — astoundingly assembled polygonal
walls — suspended over the abyss!
They carved practically vertical stairways up stupendous
precipices. High in the clouds rises one acrobatic stairway of
64 steps, which had to be carved in a place where one could get
only a toehold for support. (Another comprises 600 steps.)
Can you imagine it!
These ingenious “jewelers” in rock ascended a dizzying
mountain “no wider than the blade of a sword” and topped it
with watchtowers and walls pierced with lookouts. The
mountain drops away so abruptly that if a workman slipped
his body would not be stopped for 3,000 feet.
Doesn’t that fill you with wonder?
And these things are still there for you to see! Today on all
sides, the ruins of temples, fortresses and towers surmount the
peaks and cling to the vertical sides of the canyon like ivy.
Overlooking a waterfall, a splendid palace rises above the
fierce abyss — impossible to reach. You may well ask, how was
this palace built?
Terraces were “miraculously” inlaid into vertical slopes, perched
over the canyon fault. I ask you, how did they hoist up heavy,
carved rocks by the thousands?
Site after site is built atop bluffs, which are too steep to be
Many seem to have been literally hurled up as though the
monstrous stones flew there.
ANCIENT RUINS HIGH ABOVE THE CANYON
Anyway, as I said, the Spaniards tramped through gorges like this,
looking for treasure.
My favorite is the Urabamba River canyon. It twists and curls
between awesome mountains on its way to the distant Amazon
basin. High above, in the clouds, on a razor-back, with the canyon
curling around it on three sides, was a pre-Inca fortress.
The Incas had built a little city up there over the ruins of the
old. At 9,000 feet above sea level, you can’t see it if you’re down
in the gorge 2,000 feet below.
HIDING PLACE OF THE VIRGINS?
It is thought that the Inca Virgins of the royal palace were finally
hustled away to this spot so that the Spaniards would not find
them. Most of the graves that have been found are those of
You zigzag your way up from the canyon… round a bend…
climb a wall… stride ahead between two old stone buildings..
AND THERE IT IS!
Suddenly you are aware of a silence so complete you can hear
the Urubamba River flowing 2,000 feet below.
The silence sharpens your imagination… You can almost see
Pizzaro’s men marching along the river, searching unsuccessfully
for Machu Picchu and its treasure.
Two thousand feet above them is the city in the clouds. Safe.
You mourn as one by one the inhabitants of this hidden city die
out… and the jungle slowly covers Machu Picchu… for 400
It will sleep, hidden by the jungle until 1911… to be discovered
then by Hiram Bingham.
Now you can explore its houses… temples… tombs… peer down
from its watchtowers.
It is almost as it was when lived in by the Children of the Sun…
the military walls… the round tower… the house compounds and
houses… the ceremonial buildings… the flights of thousands of
steps which form the steep streets… and the conduits of bright
mountain water, with the complicated system of stone water
basins. All as they were made.
You notice the terraces, formed with astonishing skill… before
they drop into sheer precipices.
I will never forget that morning. I awoke beside the ruins and
went in to explore. On those ancient terraces, now cleared, I
saw what looked like strawberries.
Were they safe to eat? I tried just one… and restrained myself
not to eat another for half an hour… until I could be sure of
the effect. Then, feeling safe, I was soon on hands and knees…
in fact, for the next hour or two. That was the biggest feed of
strawberries I had ever enjoyed. After 400 years… did they
An iridescent blue butterfly flitted up from the canyon and winged
around the sundial.
Throughout the steep precipice area surrounding Machu Picchu
are literally hundreds of miles of stone terracing for ancient
agriculture. …many of them terraces which hang over the cliffs.
Daring? You can say that again!
Let me give you another example.
Still higher above Machu Picchu towers a steep pinnacle. If you
look carefully you will see death-defying terraces perched on
that vertical peak.
A high, carved niche opens out over the abyss. Under a ridge,
shaped like the letter I, the rock was leveled and encrusted with
carefully joined stone cubes. Only a daring mountaineer hanging
from a rope could possibly reach it. Those “builder magicians,”
I tell you, had no sense of the impossible.
Everywhere loom buildings that defy the laws of equilibrium and
gravity — as well as vertigo.
These are a triumph of human daring and of a technology which
almost smacks of science fiction.
I tell you, these people did not know the impossible.
Many gigantic blocks are covered with intricate carvings. No man
alive could duplicate such carvings with the stone tools we find.
Perhaps you can understand now why Hyatt Verrill remarks, “It is
not a question of skill, patience, time — it is a human impossibility.”
I entered one of the houses perched atop the precipice… and
looked down into the canyon far below. What a great view from
your bedroom window! But you wouldn’t want to go sleep
Machu Picchu… forgotten in time.
For sheer majesty the setting of this little city far surpasses
, I invite you to come with me, now, on an adventure
you’ll never forget. What awaits you is an amazing journey
as you come face to face with a weird world of seemingly
Here is a quiz for you. How many of these 6 amazing facts
did you know?
* the seaport that climbed a mountain range?
* why certain Amazon tribes “have to be” murdered?
* why an Ice Age can occur only if there’s great heat?
* Where was the legendary Ophir, fabled land of gold?
* What amazing device could cut hard metal without
friction or heat?
* Did you know about the scholars who were caught
sabotaging ancient documents?
If you want to know the answers to these questions, and
discover other amazing facts, here is where to go:
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?
Please email me your questions. I am here to help
you with any questions on ancient mysteries. Just
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
International explorer, archaeologist and author
Jonathan Gray has traveled the world to gather data
on ancient mysteries. He has penetrated some largely
unexplored areas, including parts of the Amazon
headwaters. The author has also led expeditions to
the bottom of the sea and to remote mountain and
desert regions of the world. He lectures internationally.