British Explorer Percy Fawcett and the Ancient Lost City of Z

Percy Fawcett with an Olmec (?) statue.

Percy Fawcett with an Olmec (?) statue.

Colonel Percy Fawcett was one of the most famous British explorers of his day, a friend of writers Arthur Conan Doyle and H. Rider Haggard. He had a strong interest in Atlantis and the occult, and after years of exploring South America, speculated that the ruins of a lost ancient city called Z laid somewhere in the unmapped territory of the Amazon.

Fawcett believed the city was built by an advanced civilization, once writing to his son Brian that he expected “the ruins to be monolithic in character, more ancient than the oldest Egyptian discoveries. Judging by inscriptions found in many parts of Brazil, the inhabitants used an alphabetical writing allied to many ancient European and Asian scripts.” He even heard rumors that a strange source of light would illuminate the insides of the buildings, “a phenomenon that filled with terror the Indians who claimed to have seen it.”

After two previous expeditions in the early 1920s that ended in failure, Fawcett set out for a third expedition with his 21-year-old son Jack and Jack’s friend Raleigh Rimell in 1925. Fawcett suspected that Z was located somewhere in the jungles of Mato Grosso, a little-explored region full of dangerous insects, unfriendly Indian tribes, and piranha-infested rivers.

Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmell.

Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmell.

By May 29th, about 5 weeks into the expedition, Fawcett and his two young companions arrived at the outpost where Fawcett had left off in his last search. He gave their native guides a letter written for his wife, and then dismissed them back to the state capital of Cuiaba. 2 years passed without anybody hearing from the team again, and some began to fear that they were dead.

The Royal Geographical Society’s George Miller Dyott organized an expedition to find the Fawcett party in 1928, but they came up with nothing. There were rumors that the trio was still alive, either the captives of hostile Indians or volunteers who had given up civilization and gone native. In the 90 years that have passed since their disappearance, over 100 people have been killed trying to look for them.

Another picture of Percy Fawcett.

Another picture of Percy Fawcett.

Missionaries in the early 1930s reported hearing stories about a tall, blue-eyed white man in the area who was forced to marry an Indian chief’s daughter. There were also sightings of a white baby boy said to be the son of either Fawcett or Jack. Fawcett’s wife believed that the men were still alive, and claimed to have received a psychic message from her husband in 1934. Psychic Geraldine Cummins also reported receiving a telepathic message from Fawcett in 1936, and received four more communications until 1948, when he told her that he was dead. Further venturing into inanity, some people in the theosophist and flying saucer communities believed that Fawcett really did find Z, which was actually a subterranean city full of UFOs and beautiful red-haired people.

These bones were said to be the remains of Percy Fawcett, but later investigation showed that they belonged to a Kalapalos Indian.

These bones were said to be the remains of Percy Fawcett, but later investigation showed that they belonged to a Kalapalos Indian.

Moving onto more “plausible” rumors, there were also stories of Fawcett being killed. One man in 1949 claimed that Fawcett and Rimmell were dead, and he had seen their shrunken heads. Author Harold Wilkins in 1952 heard that another man was shown Fawcett’s shrunken head by an Indian chief. The same year, Brazilian indigenous activist Orlando Vilas Boaz reported that the party was killed by the Kalapalo Indians. He discovered some bones in the area, but later examination showed that the remains weren’t Fawcett. Another theory suggests that Fawcett intentionally went missing so he could establish a remote theosophist-influenced commune.

Fawcett’s son Brian made several trips to Brazil in the 1950s to search for his father and brother himself, but he was unable to find any more information about what happened to them.

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