El Dorado, the legendary city of gold, did exist and was even evangelized by Jesuit missionaries, according to Mario Polia, an archeologist at Lima University in Peru.

The mythical city was called Paititi by the Incas and El Dorado by the Spaniards, is believed to have been the last place of refuge for the Incas when they fled with their treasures from the advancing Spanish conquerors in 1532.

Polia has discovered an ancient document that describes a city with walls covered in gold leaf. ?Paititi is not a myth, it really existed. It was discovered at the end of the 16th century by missionaries of the Society of Jesus, who converted the king and his court,? says Polia. The document describes ?a miracle that took place in the Kingdom of Paititi for God?s mercy? and is part of a collection called ?Peruana Historia? (Peruvian history), which is kept in the Roman archives of the Jesuits. It tells about the encounter of Father Andrea Lopez with the inhabitants of Paititi, ?a very wealthy city adorned with gold, silver and precious stones.?

According to the report, the Father General informed the Pope of his discovery, obtaining permission to evangelize the area. Polia believes that the Vatican never revealed the city?s location, for fear of starting a gold rush.

Explorers have searched for El Dorado over the past five centuries. One of these was British army surveyor Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who left in search of the city of gold in 1925. More recently, a 1972 French-American expedition was led by Bob Nichols, and a 1997 exploration was led by Norwegian anthropologist Lars Hafksjold. The latest explorer to set off in search of the legend is Jacek Palkiewicz, who is famous for discovering the real source of the Amazon river in 1996. He left last week for a journey into the thick jungle of the Madre de Dios River basin.

?I have been working on this project for two years. I even pinpointed a waterfall and a square lake which, according to legend, lead to Paititi. There are extremely good chances I will find El Dorado,? says Palkiewicz.

But Polia is skeptical. ?This sounds like another groundless claim. I know for sure Paititi is not in the Madre de Dios area, namely where everybody has been looking,? he says.

Brian S. Bauer, one of the leading authorities on the Inca, is also skeptical and says, ?All this only shows that the dream of finding a lost city of gold is as strong for us today as it was for the Spaniards in the 17th century.?

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