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Writer became El Dorado explorer for The New Yorker

An ancient Amazonian civilization situated where people have long searched for the famed lost city of El Dorado had man-made features that some archeologists think rivaled the complexity of the pyramids of ancient Egypt, The New Yorker magazine writer David Grann told more than 100 people at the Museum of Science on Wednesday.

Grann, a Boston University alumnus, gave a presentation about his new book, released on Tuesday, called ‘The Lost City of Z,’ which discusses his journey into the Amazon rainforest following the trail of early twentieth century British explorer Percy Fawcett, who went missing while searching for the lost city of El Dorado.

‘I’m afraid of snakes’ Grann joked at the beginning of his presentation. ‘Sometimes, I get lost on the subway on my way to work.”

Grann said he decided to search for El Dorado in the Amazon after speaking to one of Fawcett’s descendents in London, who showed him Fawcett’s old diaries and logbooks. Grann, who took out an extra life insurance policy, said he left his wife and one-year-old son behind in Manhattan in order to travel to the Amazon.’

While in the Amazon, Grann said members of a local village introduced him to an archaeologist studying the area, who had discovered motes and ancient roads he claimed were engineering projects greater than those of the Egyptians.

‘Our understanding of these civilizations is really just at the beginning,’ Grann said.

Many explorers died in search of the city during colonial times, Grann said. El Dorado was supposedly so plentiful of gold, men would crush it up and wear it on their skin, Grann said, according to one of Fawcett’s journals.

While in the jungle, Grann said after a native brought him to a ranch Fawcett had visited and encountering an ancient brick wall on the property, he finally began to believe that ‘the remnants of a city could really be lost in the jungle.’

Grann said he noticed the negative effects of deforestation in South America throughout his journey. One of his reasons for writing the book was to ‘show how the world had changed, how the Amazon had changed,’ he said

‘It looked like Nebraska,’ he said, showing a photograph of a desolate landscape.’

The presentation was a part of the Museum of Science’s ongoing series, ‘When Science Meets Art.’ MOS Special Programs Coordinator Monica Parker-Jones, who helped coordinate Grann’s appearance, said the series ‘tries to bring in people at the intersection of science and art.’

‘Writing is his craft,’ Parker-Jones, also a BU alumna, said. ‘His new book also goes along with several events about the Amazon going on at the museum.’

Pat Adams, who said he is a frequent attendee of events at the museum, said she enjoyed the presentation.

‘It was fascinating,’ Adams said. ‘The last time I came, it was all about the Mayans.’

Attendee Ken Dewz, a New Yorker subscriber, said he really liked hearing about Grann’s ‘own experiences and how he spent some time in the jungle.”

Grann, who is currently touring the U.S. to promote his book, joked that his favorite part of the book was ‘finishing it.” Nevertheless, he said he loves working for The New Yorker.’

‘I don’t think there’s another magazine in the world that would send me into the jungle,’ Grann said.’

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