This fascinating series of documentaries was first shown in January 2013 on BBC4 and is presented by the engaging Dr Jago Cooper who looks into some of South America’s forgotten civilisations and the legacy of once mighty empires that extended over huge areas at the height of their success.
Although the episodes are no longer available to view on BBC i-player if you missed them first time around, you could head instead to the British Museum who have arranged a special exhibition to show exhibits from each of the ancient cultures featured in the series. These programmes offer a stunning insight into some of the sites and civilisations that few have heard of such as the Chimu, Tiwanaku, Chachapoyan and Muisca cultures, often pre-dating or contemporaneous to the more widely known Inca civilisation. From the startling burial sites and carefully preserved mummies of the Chachapoyan people of northern Peru to intricately engineered farming terraces delicately in tune with their environment at Tiwanaku near Lake Titicaca, it demonstrates the sheer diversity of South American history beyond the well-documented empire of the Incas.
Having visited all these regions ourselves, with the exception of the Lost City in Colombia’s Santa Marta Mountains, it reinforced the fact that South America has so many hidden corners to explore beyond those celebrated sites such as Machu Picchu. The Lost Citadel will always be on anyone’s wishlist when visiting Peru and rightly so. It is true that the latter is a genuinely breath-taking archaeological site and not to be missed, despite the crowds it draws. But perhaps the thought of being the fourth person in the visitors’ book that day at Kuelap where you can discover more about the mysterious Chachapoyans is enough to convince you to delve a bit deeper off the beaten historical track. So now, Dr Jago has given me a hankering to return to Colombia and hike to the ‘Cuidad Perdida’ and walk along the deserted and beautiful beaches of Tayrona. I might have to go back to the Gold Museum again in Bogotá too – it takes time to explore all 6,000 artefacts on show there and I know there are many more beautiful artefacts to explore at the British Museum to bring these fascinating ancient civilisations back to life. If Dr Cooper decides to return for a second series, we hope he turns his attention to Central America, perhaps exploring the little known sites of the Aztec and Mayan predecessors such as the Toltecs or Olmecs from Teotihuacan outside Mexico City to El Tajin overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Contact us to discuss your own journey into the fascinating history of Latin America.