Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Lost City

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The Lost City

by Henry Shukman

The Lost City by Henry Shukman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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The Chacapoyas

Jackson's search for La Joya (pronounced la hoi-ya) is a search any of us could embark on, but we might find it more expedient to visit one of the easier to locate Chachapoya sites. The Chachapoyas, the Warriors of the Clouds, lived in the Andes in what  is now Northern Peru - and La Joya, one of many ruined Chachapoyan cities, can be visited today along with other ancient sites (map of the region). It is believed that the Chachapoyas tribe lived in the region from about the 9th-10th century. They were conquered by the Incas in the 16th century who gave them the name 'chachapoyas'; their original name is unknown.

Their origin is also unknown and somewhat mysterious - evidence indicates that they had different architecture and burial practices than other Amazonian tribes. In The Lost City, Padre Beltran shows Jackson and Sarah two mummies, one with rust colored hair. The Chachapoyas were rumored to have been lighter skinned than other Native Americans and their women were reputed to be very beautiful. Padre Beltran even speculates that the Chachapoyas may have been descended from the Vikings. Beyond speculation and some artifacts, little is known about these people. The limited information in existence comes mainly from Spanish and Incan sources, which are presumably biased, and some archeological evidence, such as pottery and tombs.

Interesting Link: An extensive article on the Chacapoya Indians from the Encyclopedia of Anthropology


Henry Shukman has worked as a trombonist, travel writer, and a trawlerman. He has won awards for his poetry and was shortlisted for the O. Henry Award for his short fiction. Born in Britain, he lives in New Mexico. His debut fiction collection, Mortimer of the Maghreb, was published in 2006.

This article was originally published in February 2008, and has been updated for the April 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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