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Rescued expedition say they found lost city in Peru’s jungle

November 8, 1997

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Three members of a documentary film team trapped for a month in Peru’s Amazon rainforest say they found a pre-Incan stone city and chunks of gold ore hidden for centuries under the dense jungle.

Rescued Belgian ornithologist Jean de Coninck said Friday that the stone city was ``larger and more imposing″ than the nearby pre-Incan ruins of Gran Pajaten, which are dominated by the jungle-shrouded mountains.

The citadel of Gran Pajaten dates back to 2000 B.C. and was occupied until it was conquered by the Incas in the early 16th century, said archaeologist Adrian Mendoza, director of Peru’s National Institute of Culture in the central district of San Martin.

The area is 360 miles north of Lima, the capital.

Gran Pajaten was discovered in 1965 by American explorer Gene Savoy. It is regarded as one of the most important pre-Columbian ruins discovered since the American explorer Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu in 1911.

Many expeditions have gone to the Gran Pajaten area in search of the lost city of El Dorado, which legend has it is filled with gold, Mendoza said.

Coninck said the expedition found large quantities of gold ore near the ruins.

``It’s a city built on slabs of stone. We are not archaeologists, but we have kept a record of what we found and we know the exact location of the mounds,″ said Coninck, who lives in Peru.

Coninck and two Peruvian scientists _ ornithologist Segundo Rivadeneyra and entomologist Mario Callegari _ were found weak and dehydrated Thursday by rescuers in the Rio Abiseo National Park.

Survivors say a fourth member of the party, Marcial Huaman, was dragged away by the rain-swollen Abiseo River.

The men were part of a team filming a documentary on the Gran Pajaten ruins for a Lima television station. They separated from the main party to explore an unknown stretch of virgin jungle, but their food ran out before they could reach a settlement and they became too weak to continue.

Mendoza said in a telephone interview Friday that the expedition could have found such a lost city since there are indications of undiscovered ruins in the area.

``Some 26 expeditions have gone to Pajaten but only five were authorized. The others went to loot,″ Mendoza said.

Expedition members said they lived mainly on butterflies after their food ran out.

Callegari said the group came across a 10-foot-long snake, which they beat to death with sticks while it was swallowing a smaller snake.

``It was the only day we ate meat,″ he said.

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