Interview: Peru - France

French explorer launches search for Inca lost city

Writer and explorer Thierry Jamin on expedition in the Megantoni National Park
Writer and explorer Thierry Jamin on expedition in the Megantoni National Park

A French explorer is planning to search for a lost Incan city reputed to hold vast treasure. Thierry Jamin believes the city of Paititi can be found in the Peruvian jungle but detractors say his proposed expedition will endanger isolated tribes and that he’s less interested in science than in treasure hunting.


Jamin says he has been conducting archaeological research in Peru for the past 16 years.

He lives in Cuzco and was recently in Paris to raise awareness and funds for a new expedition.

He believes he knows where to find Paititi, "one of the most fascinating stories of the Inca mythology", according to his website and possibly the place where they hid their empire’s treasures when Europeans arrived centuries ago.

“The Matseguengas, who live in the jungle, have told us about monumental ruins on top of a mountain,” Jamin told RFI while in Paris. “And then, two years ago, a satellite imaging company in Toulouse identified an area with lakes and a mountain that match the description of Paititi. It’s still a hypothesis but we have enough clues to go and see if the site is there.”

Jamin is planning to launch a six-week expedition to verify the site in July.

Getting approval for the journey means navigating the strict Peruvian bureaucracy, which is reluctant to grant passage to foreign researchers.

If successful, he’ll be accompanied by a member of Peru's culture ministry and a government-approved archaeologist as his team enters the vast Megantoni National Sanctuary in south-east Peru.

“We’ve sent a proposal for a research project to the Ministry of Culture,” he says. “We always work with the ministry and sometimes the Ministry of the Environment when we go to a protected region. If we didn’t work with them, we would be like looters, and our work would have no scientific value.”

The proposed expedition has also raised fears the team would introduce diseases to a band of indigenous people known as the Nantis, or Kugapakories. One reason the sanctuary was created 10 years ago was to protect groups like these, which are vulnerable to infectious diseases because they have not built up resistance to them.

Jamin insists the natives live to a side of the mountain that he has no intention of approaching.

“There are indeed natives living in voluntary isolation in the Megantoni sanctuary,” Jamin says, pointing to his map. “Our expedition will not go near them. We’ll approach the mountain with the ruins by this valley. We already know the valley very well, and there are no natives living there.”

Jamin readily admits he may be wrong about the location of the legendary city. But either way, he’s determined to reach his destination.

“We are 90 per cent sure there’s a major archaeological site on this mountain,” he says. “Maybe we’re right, maybe we’re wrong, but in any case, we have a hypothesis and we’re going to test it. That’s how science advances in every domain.”

Jamin says funds for his expeditions mostly come from private donors.

He is looking to raise 60,000 euros to cover the journey's costs.

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