By Nicholas Asheshov
You can walk through the middle of a lost city without seeing a thing.
Or you can find a couple of stones on top of each other and, mein Gott! I’ve found Atlantis!
I’ve done both but we can be sure that Gene Savoy, the great lost city explorer who has just died at 80, never made mistakes like that. Unlike most explorers Savoy, who was not confused by having a degree from Cambridge ni mucho menos, knew what he was doing. He discovered more lost cities than the rest put together.
He was often accused of being a huaquero and on a couple of occasions I had to rescue him from some comisaria and rush him into the diplomatic immunity of the Phoenix Club, where he would be safe at least from wives and girl-friends.
But actually he hadn’t the slightest interest in the bits and pieces of traditional Peruvian archeology.
Savoy believed that the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Essenes and Egyptians had set up great societies in the Amazon which had expanded into the Andes and had then spread up to Mexico. This was his Feathered Serpent thesis.
Here’s the focus. It came in an invitation he sent me to a black-tie do in Reno in 1998 to launch his “Project X –the Search for the Secrets of Immortality.” Gene, the Head Bishop of a church he himself had founded, had just survived the break-up of his 73-foot made-in-Peru Mochica Dragon-prowed catamaran sailboat Feathered Serpent III in a typhoon south-west of Hawaii. This had put an end to a projected seven-year round-the-world Grand Ophir Expedition.
For nearly half a century Savoy, the Project X blurb said, “has dedicated his life to the search for the secrets of immortality”.
Indeed, I remember Gene in the ‘sixties, between his successful Lost City trips into the jungle, chatting in the Haiti Café in Miraflores about south-east Asian monks and holy men living for more than 120 years thanks to yoga-like sexual contortions.
He had airbrushed this for publication. “As a result of our research and exploration, we have been able to recover the rudiments of a lost science practiced in ancient times…, techniques for prolonging human life and extending human intelligence…”
The Grand Ophir Sea expedition is “an odyssey in search of clues to a true understanding of the ancients and their global society”.
It is “retracing King Solomon’s actual visit to ancient Peru”.
There it is.
King Solomon’s mines were not in Arabia or in East Africa, but here in the Andes, maybe just up the road from Urubamba or, more likely in the north round Gran Pajaten or Gran Velaya, two of his great discoveries. Ophir, referred to in the Book of Kings as a source of immense wealth, was Peru.
A few years ago Savoy told me that he had located what he called a “glyph” etched into a tomb of one of his Andean lost cities which, he later wrote “not only looked like a ship but research revealed that the same symbol in early Semitic hieroglyphics means ‘ship’.”
The same symbol in another text “found in Israel” means “Gold of Ophir belonging to Beth Horon, 30 shekels”. It also appears in Egypt, we learn, meaning “ships bound for Punt, a place scholars believe was Ophir, the land of gold.”
Gene knew perfectly well that this kind of thing was not academically kosher but he didn’t care. “Archaeologists spend their lives with their heads in a hole in the ground. You can’t expect too much from them.”
He’s right. Archaeologists in Peru have provided a miserably boring and unproductive set of stories on what the ruins and remains show was clearly a fabulous set of multi civilizations.
It was not much more than a couple of generations ago that many of the sites, starting with Machu Picchu, were fictitious Lost Cities. It was Savoy who located Espiritupampa as the last refuge of the Incas, whacking the academics on the head. They said no, it was just a legend, or that it was Machu Picchu.
Sipan, with its eye-popping gold- and silver-ware, only came to light 15 years ago and Carral a decade ago, both of them sitting not in dense jungle but out in the desert. The Nazca Lines were discovered only in 1940, and most visitors think that they’re flying saucer airports.
Whatever, the archaeologists can’t tell you what they were and none of them have had an ounce of Savoy’s flamboyant physical and intellectual courage. Salud, Gene!
Published in Caretas Magazine the week of Sept 16, 2007