Discoverer of Lost Cities Dies

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 17th, 2007

Gene Savoy

Gene Savoy

Disappearing quickly are the days of the explorers who found lost cities in the jungles of South America, along with the other adventurers who cut their way through rainforests finding new animals and strange unknown native peoples. One of these apparent real “Indiana Jones” died last week. Here is part of Associated Press writer Martin Griffith’s remembrance:

Douglas Eugene “Gene” Savoy, an explorer who discovered more than 40 lost cities in Peru and led long-distance sailing adventures to learn more about ancient cultures, has died. He was 80.

Savoy died of natural causes Tuesday [September 11, 2007] at his Reno [Nevada] home, his family said Saturday [September 15, 2007].

Dubbed the “real Indiana Jones” by People magazine, Savoy was credited with finding four of Peru’s most important archaeological sites, including Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Incas from the Spanish Conquistadors.

Hiram Bingham considered Machu Picchu to be the site of Vilcabamba after he discovered it in 1911 in the Peruvian Andes. But scientific consensus now points toward Espiritu Pampa as the Incas’ last stronghold; Bingham also discovered that site but Savoy’s excavation work in the mid-1960s found it to be a much larger settlement than originally realized.

In the next 40 years in the jungles of Peru, Savoy discovered more than 40 stone cities of a mysterious pre-Inca civilization known as the Chachapoyas. Among them were Gran Pajaten, Gran Vilaya and Gran Saposoa.

“Scientists thought the existence of these cities and settlements in the Peruvian rainforest was all a myth until my father found them,” his son Sean Savoy said. “His discoveries opened up a whole new area of jungle archaeology that didn’t exist before.”

He said his father suffered hepatitis, was bitten by snakes and chased by guerrilla soldiers during his explorations.

Savoy also took to the sea to test his theories that the Incas, Aztecs and other ancient civilizations had contact with each other. From 1977 to 1982, he used a 60-foot schooner to research possible trade routes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Savoy wrote dozens of books, including 1970’s “Antisuyo: The Search for the Lost Cities of the Amazon” about his early discoveries in Peru, and 1974’s “On the Trail of the Feathered Serpent” about some of his sea Martin Griffith, “Explorer Who Found Lost Peru Cities Dies,”

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

3 Responses to “Discoverer of Lost Cities Dies”

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    A real Indiana Jones. R.I.P.

  2. michaelm responds:

    He’s even got the hat and jacket. I wonder if he was an inspiration for Indiana Jones…

  3. Loren Coleman responds:

    No, Savoy was not the inspiration for Indiana Jones, as he is more a product of the 1960s-1970s. There are many candidates from the 1920s and 1930s. My favorite is a man known as “Zoology Jones” (probably Tangier Smith) who was trying to find the first live giant panda before Ruth Harkness did.

    For what it’s worth, Wikipedia gives this overview for the fictional movie character’s inspiration:

    Indiana Jones is modeled after the strong-jawed heroes of the matinée serials and pulp magazines that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg enjoyed in their childhoods (such as the Republic Pictures serials, and the Doc Savage series). The two friends first discussed the project in Hawaii around the time of the release of the first Star Wars film. Spielberg told Lucas how he wanted to direct a James Bond film – Lucas responded that he “had something better than that”. The character was originally named Indiana Smith, after an Alaskan malamute Lucas owned in the 1970s (“Indiana”); however, Spielberg disliked the name “Smith”, and Lucas casually suggested “Jones” as an alternative.

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