Sunday, 20 March 2011
Percy Fawcett meets the Maxubi
The Maricoxi themselves are, or were, supposed to be an extremely primitive tribe of hominids living in the Mato Grosso. This is a vast upland region of southern Brazil and northern Paraguay that is characterised by forest and dense stands of a viciously intertwined scrub – the “mato” of the area’s name. The area covers around 500,000 square miles and although the fringes have been cleared in recent years for soya bean farming and cattle ranching, much of the interior is largely untouched.
It was even more remote when in 1914 Colonel Percy Fawcett pushed into the area with two English companions and a small team of local porters. Fawcett had been born in Torquay in 1867 and after a distinguished career in the British army was hired by the Bolivian government to explore and survey its more remote regions. Other commissions from South American governments followed that saw Fawcett mapping large areas and establishing where vaguely defined international borders went.
On these journeys into largely unexplored regions, Fawcett was told many stories about a highly advanced civilisation that had formerly ruled and controlled a huge area of the rain forest. The local tribes told him that this rich and sophisticated people had formerly ruled the less advanced peoples with an iron hand and much brutality, but that they had disappeared some generations earlier. Fawcett became convinced that there had, in the recent past, been a civilisation akin to the Aztec or the Maya somewhere in the interior. By studying the stories he was told, and accounts in old books, Fawcett thought the centre of this civilisation had been in the Mato Grosso. It was in search of the ruins of stone cities and mighty temples that he pushed into the utterly unexplored area in 1914. He headed for the Cordillera dos Parecis.
After some weeks, Fawcett and his companions discovered a tribe called the Maxubi. Fawcett eagerly noted that these people were sun worshippers and had some advanced astronomical knowledge. Believing he was close to success, Fawcett pushed on even though the Maxubi had warned him that he was entering the territory of the Maracoxi. The Maxubi had told him that these people were little better than animals and were highly dangerous. Fawcett dismissed the stories as being merely a sign that the two tribes were hostile to each other.
Several days after leaving the Maxubi, Fawcett heard the sounds of humans moving about in the undergrowth around his camp at night. The intruders had gone by morning, so Fawcett pushed on. He later recorded in his diary what happened next.