of a hidden and great city of ancient date, without inhabitants,
that was discovered in the year 1753
interiores (we inland)…….contiguous aos (next to the)….Mestre de
Can (Master of Can)………………………..and his band (commitiva), having
for ten years journeyed in the wilds (sertoes) to see if we
could locate the famous silver mines of the Great Moribecca
(who, by the wickedness (culpa) of a Governor, was not granted
letters patent, because the Governor wanted to take the silver
mines for himself and the glory thereof, and he, the Moribecca,
was kept prisoner in Bahia, till he died, which was done to worm
out of him the location of the silver mines.
This account came to
Rio de Janeiro, in the beginning of the year 1754…"
"After long and wearisome wanderings, incited by the insatiable
lust for gold, and almost lost cordillera of mountains, so high
that they drew near the ethereal region (chegavdo a regido
etherea), and served as a throne of the winds, under the stars;
their lustre, from afar, excited our wonder and admiration,
principally when the sun shining on them turned to fires the
crystals of which the rocks were composed.
The view was so
beautiful that none could take their eyes from the reflections.
It began to rain before we came near enough to take note of
these crystalline marvels, and we saw above…
The spectacle was
bare and sterile rocks, the waters precipitated themselves from
the heights, foaming white, like snow, struck and turned to fire
by the rays of the sun, like thunder-bolts.
Delighted by the
pleasing vistas of that….blended….shone and glistered….of the
waters and the tranquility….of the day or weather (do tempo), we
determined to investigate these prodigious marvels of nature,
spread out before us, at the foot of the mountains, without
hindrance of forests or rivers that would make it difficult for
us to cross them.
But when we walked round the foot of the cordillera we found no
open way or pass into the recesses of these Alps and Pyrenees of
Brazil. So there resulted for us, from this disappointment, an
"We grew weary and intended to retrace our steps, the next day,
when it came to pass that one of our negroes, gathering dried
sticks, saw a white deer (hum veado branco), and, by that
accident, as it fled away, he discovered a road between two
sierras, that appeared to have been made by man and not the work
We were made joyful
by this discovery and we started to ascend the road, but found a
great boulder that had fallen and broken all to pieces at a spot
where, we judged, a paved way (calcada) had been violently
upheaved in some far-off day. We spent a good three hours in the
ascent of that ancient road, being fascinated by the crystals,
at which we marveled, as they blazed and scintillated in many
flashing colours from the rocks.
On the summit of the
pass through the mountain, we came to a halt.
"Thence, spread out before our eyes, we saw in the open plain
(campo raso) greater spectacles (demonstracoes) for our vision
of admiration and wonder.
At the distance of
about a league, as we judged, we saw a great city (povoacao
grande), and we estimated, by the extent and sight of it, that
it must be some city of the court of Brazil; we at once
descended the road towards the valley, but with great
caution…..would be, in like case, ordered to explore……by quality
and……………if so well as they had noticed……..smokes (fumines (?)),
that being one of the evident signs or vestiges of the place (povoacao).
"Two days we waited, wondering whether to send out scouts, for
the end we longed for, and all alone, we waited till daybreak,
in great doubt and confused perplexity of mind, trying to guess
if the city had any people in it. But it became clear to us thee
were no inhabitants.
An Indian of our
bandeirantes determined, after two days of hesitation, to risk
his life in scouting by way of precaution; but he returned,
amazing us by affirming he had met no one; nor could discover
foot-steps or traces of any person whatever.
This so confounded us
that we could not believe we saw dwellings or buildings, and so,
all the scouts (os exploradores) in a body, followed in the
steps of the Indian……."
"They now saw for themselves that it was true the great city was
uninhabited. We, all, therefore, now decided to enter the place,
our arms ready for instant use, at daybreak. At our entry we met
none to bar our way, and we encountered no other road except the
one which led to the dead city.
This, we entered
under three arches (arcos) of great height, the middle arch
being the greatest, and the two of the sides being but small;
under the great and principal arch we made out letters, which we
could not copy, owing to their great height above the ground.
"Behind, was a street as wide as the three arches, with, here
and there, houses of very large size, whose facades of
sculptured stone, already blackened with age;
alone……..inscriptions, all open to the day (todos aberias)…..decreases
of…….observing, by the regularity and symmetry with their
terraces open to the day, without one tile; for the houses had,
some of them, burnt floors; others large flagstones.
"We went, with fear and trembling, into some of the houses, and
in none did we find vestiges of furniture, or moveable objects
by which, or whose use, we might guess at the sort of people who
had dwelt therein.
The houses were all
dark, in the interior, and hardly could the light of day
penetrate, even at its dimmest, and, as the vaults gave back the
echoes of our speech, the sound of our voices terrified us.
We went on into the
strange city and we came on a road (street: rua) of great
length, and a well set-out plaza (uma praca regular), besides,
in it, and in the middle of the plaza a column of black stone of
extraordinary grandeur, on whose summit was a statue of a man (homen
ordinario: not a god, or demi-god) with a hand on the left hip
and right arm out-stretched, pointing with the index finger to
the north pole; and each corner of the said plaza is an obelisk
like those among the Romans, but now badly damaged, and cleft as
"On the right side of the plaza is a superb building, as it were
the principal town-house of some great lord of the land; there
is a great hall (saldo) at the entrance, but still being awed
and afraid, not all of us entered in the hou…….being so many and
the retre……ed to form some………ed we encounter a…..mass of
extraordin……..it was difficult for him to lift it…………….
"The bats were so numerous that they fluttered in swarms round
the faces of our people, and made so much noise that it was
Above the principal
portico of the street is a figure in half-relief, cut out of the
same stone, and naked from the waist upward, crowned with
laurel, representing a person of youthful years, without beard,
with a girdle (banda) around him, and an under-garment (um
fraldelim) open in front at the waist, underneath the shield
(escudo) of this figure are certain characters, now badly
defaced by time, but we made out the following:
"On the left side of the plaza is another totally ruined
building, and the vestiges remaining well show that it was a
temple, because of the still standing side of its magnificent
facade, and certain naves of stone, standing entire.
It covers much
ground, and in the ruined halls are seen works of beauty, with
other statues of portraits inlaid in the stone, with crosses of
various shapes, curves (arches (?) corvos) and many other
figures that would take too long to describe here.
"Beyond this building a great part of the city lies completely
in ruins, and buried under great masses of earth, and frightful
crevasses in the ground, and in all this expanse of utter
desolation there is seen no grass, herb, tree, or plant produced
by nature, but only mountainous heaps of stone, some raw (that
is, unworked), others worked and carved, whereby we
understood……..they……because again among……of……corpses that……….and
part of this unhappy………..and overthrown, perhaps, by some
"Opposite this plaza, there runs very swiftly a most deep (caudaloso)
and wide river, with spacious banks, that were very pleasing to
the eye: it was eleven to twelve fathoms in width, without
reckoning the windings, clear and bared at its banks of groves,
as of trees and of the trunks that are often brought down in
We sounded its depths
and found the deepest parts to be fifteen or sixteen fathoms.
The country beyond
consists wholly of very green and flourishing fields, and so
blooming with a variety of flowers that it seemed as if Nature,
more attentive to these parts, had laid herself out to create
the most beautiful gardens of Flora: we gazed, too, in
admiration and astonishment at certain lakes covered with wild
rice plants from which we profited, and also at the innumerable
flocks of geese that bred in these fertile plains (campos); but
it would have been difficult to sound their depths with the
hand, in the absence of a sounding-rod.
"Three days we journeyed down the river, and we stumbled on a
cataract (uma catadupa) of such roaring noise and commotion of
foaming waters, that we supposed the mouths of the much talked
of Nile could not have made more trouble or booming, or offered
more resistance to our further progress.
Afterwards, the river
spreads out so much from this cascade that it appears to be a
great Ocean (qui parece a grande Oceano).
It is all full of
peninsulas, covered with green grass, with groves of trees, here
and there, that make………pleas………………Here, we find…………………….for want
of it, we………………………….the variety of game……………many created beings
without hunters to hunt and chase them.
"On the eastern side of this cataract, we found various
subterranean hollows (subcavoes) and frightful holes, and made
trial of their depths with many ropes; but, after many attempts
we were never able to plumb their depths.
We found, besides,
certain broken stones, and (lying) on the surface of the ground,
thrown down, with bars of silver (crevadas de prata) that may
have been extracted from the mines, abandoned at the time.
"Among these caverns (furnas) we saw some covered with a great
flagstone, with the following figures cut into it, that suggest
a great mystery. They are as follows:
"Over the portico of the temple, we saw, besides, the following
"Distant a cannon-shot from the abandoned city is a building
like a country house (casa de campo), with a frontage of 250
feet. It is approached by a great portico, from which a stairway
built with a door communicating with the said great chamber.
Each room has its
waterspout (or fountain: bica de agua)………………….the which water
meets………………in the exterior courtyard…………..colonnades in the sur…………squared
and fashioned by hand, overhung with the characters following:
"Thence, leaving that marvel, we went down to the banks of the
river to see whether we could find gold, and without difficulty,
we saw, on the surface of the soil, a fine trail promising great
riches, as well of gold, as of silver: we marveled that this
place had been abandoned by those who had formerly inhabited it;
for, with all our careful investigations and great diligence we
had met no person, in this wilderness, who might tell us of this
deplorable marvel of an abandoned city, whose ruins, statues and
grandeur, attested its former populous ness, wealth, and its
flourishing in the centuries past; whereas, today, it is
inhabited by swallows, bats, rats and foxes, that, fed on the
innumerable swarms of hens and geese, have become bigger than a
The rats have the
tails so short that they leap like fleas and do not run or walk,
as they do in other places.
"At this place, the band separated, and one company, joined by
others, journeyed forward, and, after nine days long marchings,
saw, at a distance, on the bank of a great bay (enseada) into
which the river spreads, a canoe with some white persons, with
long, flowing, black hair, dressed like Europeans…………….a gunshot
fired as a signal to………………..for they had escaped. They
had………………………shaggy and wild………………….their hair is plaited and
they wear clothes.
"One of our company, named Joao Antonio, found in the ruins of a
house a piece of gold money, of spherical shape, greater than
our Brazilian coin of 6,400 reis: on one side was an image, or
figure of a kneeling youth; on the other, a bow, a crown, and an
arrow (setta), of which coins we doubted not to have found many
in the abandoned city; since it was overthrown by an earthquake,
which gave no time, so sudden was its onset, to take away
precious objects; but it needs a very powerful arm to turn over
the rubbish, accumulated in so many long years, as we saw.
"This news is sent to you Honor from the interior of the
province of Bahia and from the rivers Para-oacu and Una, and
assuring you that we shall give information to no person,
whatsoever; for we judge the villages are empty of people and
But I have given to
your Honor the mine we have discovered, reminded of the great
deal that is owed to you.
"Supposing that from our band, one of our company went forth, at
this time, with a different pretense…..he may, with great harm
to your Honor, abandon his poverty and and come to use these
great things for his own benefit, taking great care to bribe
that Indian (therefore), so as to spoil his purpose and lead
your Honor to these great treasures, etc………………………….would find,
in the entrances……….flagstones………….."
Original Portuguese document