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Full EpisodeCarthage's Lost Warriors

In 146 BC, as the Romans conquered the vast Carthaginian Empire in North Africa, thousands of people fled their homeland. Now, science is suggesting some may have taken refuge thousands of miles away in South America. In addition to the scientific evidence, blonde, blue eyed indigenes suggest that contact with the West occurred long before Columbus arrived.

Production credits Print

A Doc.Station production in association with ZDF, Arte, ZDF Enterprises, S4C and Thirteen Productions LLC for WNET
this program was produced by Doc.Station and THIRTEEN, which are solely responsible for its content.
© ZDF 2014 all rights reserved

narrated by
Jay O. Sanders

directed & written by
Michael Gregor

camera
Alexander Hein

editor
Fabian Teichmann

music
Stefan Mertin
Martin Hornung

sound
Philipp Podlich

graphic effects
FarberCourtial

production manager, Brazil
Claus Ruegner

production manager, Peru
Günter Hane

production managers, USA
Julia Knobloch
Stefanie Zeyn

sound mix
Hendrik Knoch

production managers
Sandra Thum
Kerstin Peterssen

producer
Jasmin Gravenhorst

series open and additional graphics
designers
David Chomowicz
Bobby Chang
Adam Helfet-Hilliker
Curtis Stiles
Rafael Trujillo
Felicia Van Os

series open and additional graphics
producer
Margi Kerns
editor
Jay Slot
music
Jim Heffernan
Michael Montes

FOR THIRTEEN

production assistant
Rachel Hartman
coordinating producer
Stephanie Carter

budget controller
Joy Simms

FOR THIRTEEN
editor
Jay Slot

audio mixers?Jon Berman
Josh Broome
Neil Cedar

commissioning editor, ZDF
Peter Allenbacher (ZDF Arte)

ZDF enterprises executive
Nikolas Hülbusch

commissioning editor, S4C
Llion Iwan

executive in charge
Stephen segaller

executive producer
Steve Burns

Transcript Print

NARRATOR: Coming up, Carthage was a mighty empire known for its powerful sailing fleet.

When the empire fell, did these seafarers sail to the New World long before Columbus?

WOMAN: The Amazon Basin has been settled for 11,000 years, but 2,000 years ago, there was a population explosion.

MAN: Fortresses like Kuelap are not found anywhere in America, but archeologists have never considered its origin might be found outside America.

NARRATOR: 'Carthage's Lost Warriors' on 'Secrets of the Dead.'

NARRATOR: Deep within the jungles of South America, a Celtic-style bronze ax is found, an ancient relic predating the arrival Columbus into the New World.

Is it possible warriors from the Old World left it behind 2,000 years ago as they journeyed as far as Peru to eventually end up in this fortress atop the Andes?

Professor Hans Giffhorn believes the mummies of the legendary Chachapoya warriors conceal a baffling mystery.

[Giffhorn speaking German] Over the course of time, I've come across such a large amount of evidence from a wide variety of areas which all points towards one theory, that in ancient times, people from the Old World reached Peru and joined forces with the Chachapoya.

NARRATOR: By 539 B.C., Carthage, a powerful city state, controlled much of the Mediterranean from the coast of North Africa.

With its fortresslike location and secure natural harbor, it is an important trading metropolis at the center of the ancient world.

Precious resources and luxury goods arrived here from Carthaginian colonies in a ceaseless flow, laying the foundation for incredible wealth.

The harbor at Carthage was a port of call for merchant vessels and warships alike.

Warships with 170 oarsmen or more set sail from here.

The earliest of these ships were triremes with 3 rows of oars, but with each new and more powerful ship, some believe, the Carthaginians could have sailed further out into the Atlantic.

They ventured along the west coast of Africa as far south as Cameroon to control the trade and gold.

They obtained copper and tin from trading colonies in Iberia, even voyaging to the Atlantic side of Spain.

Even the Spanish Balearic Islands provided their most fearsome warriors.

For many years, Hans Giffhorn of Hildeshein University near Hanover, Germany, has studied the ancient history of the Spanish islands.

The German professor takes a keen interest in the ancient legends, valuable sources of lost knowledge.

Giffhorn does not think the Carthaginians could have simply vanished after their empire collapsed, defeated by the Romans in 146 B.C.

He believes the survivors could have started a new life somewhere else.

He is convinced of this and begins searching for clues here on the Balearic Islands.

GIFFHORN: Phoenicians and Carthaginians often journeyed to Majorca, establishing trading settlements as they did in the Mediterranean and further afield.

NARRATOR: Commerce was key to Carthaginian power.

So were the thousands of soldiers from Iberia who fought in the Carthaginian army.

The stone slingers from the Balearic Islands were a much-feared mercenary force.

Giffhorn finds it unlikely that all of the Carthaginians would have been enslaved... but what alternatives were open to them?

Did they flee far across the ocean to South America?

Are the dead at Kuelap, the mountain fortress in Peru, the descendants of these Celts and Carthaginians, as Giffhorn believes?

The key element in Giffhorn's hypothesis starts at Carthage itself on the southern coast of the Mediterranean.

The cargo port at Carthage was open to all ships, but only Carthaginian warships were allowed through the inner gate.

Behind this gate, secret boathouses were constructed, each 20 feet wide and 100 feet long, space for 350 warships with a crew of 100,000 men.

On land, too, the superpower spread fear and terror.

Its war elephants were a feared weapon.

Their powerful grip on the region provoked bitter resistance.

The up-and-coming Rome soon became a dangerous rival.

After 3 bloody wars, the Roman Empire was able to defeat Carthage.

Hundreds of thousands died as the city burned.

Countless more were enslaved, but many must have been able to flee.

Professor Giffhorn believes that some elite seafarers managed to escape to their trading posts in northern Spain.

Here, they would have found safe harbor in what is present-day Galicia, but soon, the Roman victors would occupy the city.

They would build the Tower of Hercules, the famous lighthouse based on one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

For 2,000 years, its light has shone out over the water into the dreaded Bay of Biscay and toward the Atlantic sea routes to the Americas.

During ancient times, the harbor at Coruna was an important staging post for ships heading to northern shores.

Here, seafarers from Carthage and throughout the Mediterranean came into contact with Celtic Iberians who had been sailing the northern ocean for thousands of years.

In Coruna, business is conducted.

The riches of the country are traded for precious goods from overseas, a practice that continues today among the descendents of the Celts and the Carthaginians.

Trade brings the world together.

Information is passed on, all the latest news.

[People shouting in Spanish] NARRATOR: Maybe there was even talk of Carthaginians voyaging across the ocean as far as the distant shores of present-day Brazil.

Even if it were theoretically possible for the Carthaginians to have reached Brazil, this doesn't indicate, by any means, that they really got there.

More evidence will be required, and such evidence is found in the writings of ancient historians, such as Diodorus.

NARRATOR: The Greek historian Diodorus reported in his history of the world that the Carthaginians had discovered paradise far beyond all known inhabited countries, a land with wild animals, rivers that could be navigated by ship, and high mountains.

As sailors of all nations did, they kept this discovery a secret.

Giffhorn believes the Carthaginian refugees and their Celtic allies set out from Spain.

GIFFHORN: It seems to me that without the nautical skills of the Carthaginians, it would hardly have been possible for the Celtic Iberians and the stone slingers of Majorca to cross the Atlantic.

NARRATOR: Carthaginian sea captains perfected the nautical legacy of their Phoenician forefathers.

They could determine their latitude by the length of the shadow cast by the midday sun.

At night, they would navigate by the polar star in the constellation of the Little Bear, known as the Phoenician Star in ancient times.

As has always been the case, ships are propelled by the winds and ocean currents to the northeastern coast of Brazil.

Janice Jakait has also crossed the Atlantic entirely by herself.

This woman from Heidelberg covered the 4,000 miles from southern Portugal to the Caribbean islands in 90 days in a high-tech rowboat carried by the currents, proof that it may be possible.

JAKAIT: Of course, it wasn't like a lake in the park.

There were some critical situations-- waves up to 8 or 9 meters high, collisions or near misses with fishing trawlers, and getting caught in their nets.

Naturally, the main problem is that you need fresh water and food.

Of course, you're constantly exposed to the sun, the heat, but you're permanently soaking wet.

Once you're in the boat, you can't turn back and row against the current, against the wind.

So, in other words, you just have to make it.

Even in ancient times, large boats rowed by strong men must somehow have been able to do it.

Once they were on the water, they would have had to get there.

NARRATOR: Giffhorn thinks the Carthaginian ships could have reached the tropical coastline and discovered the New World 1,500 years before Columbus.

The island of Itamaraca lies off the coast of Brazil and would have been an ideal landing site for the Carthaginians.

In the 17th century, Dutch explorers chose to build Fort Orange here because it was easy to defend.

Ceramic fragments found here suggest an ancient indigenous settlement lay underneath the fortress.

The sand is littered with curious fragments of white clay.

[Speaking Portuguese] These are the remains of Dutch clay pipes.

We found more than 5,000 of them.

They certainly smoked a lot here at Fort Orange.

NARRATOR: Up to now, the archeologist has not found any traces of Carthaginians and little remains of the original inhabitants.

In ancient times, exhausted seafarers would have found conditions here extremely difficult after crossing the Atlantic.

The archeologist is convinced of that.

In the 16th century, mercenary Hans Staden wrote about being taken prisoner by cannibals on the coast of Brazil.

He was witness to how these people slaughtered their enemies, cut them into pieces, and then ate them.

While the natives were fearsome, they were also traders, and that was exactly the strength of the Carthaginians.

Could this have been their chance at survival?

There are no accounts of a transatlantic expedition to Brazil at any time before Columbus, but not far from the coast at Rio Paraiba, there is an archeological site which could be extremely significant-- the legendary Pedra do Inga.

Countless figures and symbols have been engraved into the monolith.

Experts are still unable to decipher their meaning.

MAN: Here in Paraiba a very long time ago, the Itacotiera culture existed.

Many engravings in stone remain from this period, such as here at the Rock of the Inga, but we don't know how these people thought or how they behaved.

We simply are not able to understand the messages they've left.

How were they created?

Which people immortalized themselves at the Rock of the Inga?

It's a mystery.

However, does it seem likely that the people who did this were not simple natives?

Maybe it was a completely different culture 2,000 years ago.

At an early stage, local archeologists noticed that many of the petroglyphs of the Rock of the Inga displayed similarities with writing from the Old World in classical times.

I've studied this.

Only similarities with individual letters were found, not with complete words.

However, similarities were mainly with letters from a Celtic Iberian alphabet.

NARRATOR: 4 symbols engraved on the stone resemble letters from ancient European languages.

We know their phonetic value, but so far, it has not been possible to translate the engravings into a meaningful text.

Merchants or settlers would have hardly considered the Rio Paraiba a Garden of Eden.

Once up river, the tropical region quickly gives way to a parched hinterland of rock and dust.

Hitting this dead end, any seafarer or explorer would have been forced to return to the Atlantic coast... but to the northwest, there was a river of dimensions that must have been beyond belief for sailors from the Old World-- the Amazon.

Tropical rainforests would hardly have been a new sight for seafarers from Carthage-- they could have seen similar vegetation in Africa-- but how would the jungle have struck their Celtic allies?

No account exists... and we can only imagine their first contact with native tribes from vivid accounts written 1,500 years later by explorers who followed Columbus into the New World.

Despite the explorers' superior weaponry, the natives would have had the advantage over intruders who didn't know the laws of the jungle.

Spanish and Portuguese invaders told tragic stories of their attempt to colonize the Amazon in the 16th century.

To them, everything was hostile, and death lurked everywhere.

It would have been no different for the Carthaginians 1,500 years earlier.

As a matter of survival, explorers knew never to venture too far from the shelter of their ship.

The conquistadors exchanged colorful gifts with the locals.

For a tribal chief, perhaps a Carthaginian metal ax would be appropriate.

The Portuguese established Belem, their first base, in 1616 close to the Amazon delta.

From here, they would exploit the tropical wealth as they attempted to convert the wild heathens.

In Belem today, archeologists are studying Indian culture.

The Goeldi Institute has gathered evidence about Amazonian tribes who were neither wild nor nonreligious.

[Camera shutter clicks] For thousands of years, there was a developed civilization here.

[Camera shutter clicks] They've even found a ceramic version of the Brazilian cult garment known as the tanga.

[Camera shutter clicks] Dr. Maura da Silveira curates a collection of archeological treasures of the Amazon, everyday objects from thousands of years ago.

Special cult objects were made from precious materials.

This valuable spearhead made from rock crystal is a highlight of the collection.

Terracotta idols painted in rich colors bear witness to the complex religious beliefs of the Marajoara.

[da Silveira speaking Portuguese] This is a phallus symbol, a terracotta cult object from the Marajoara.

The Amazonian culture at that time was highly developed.

The people lived on manmade islands that had been constructed in the marsh.

It was also used as a rattle.

[Rattling] NARRATOR: The very first people to excavate this area were staggered by the extraordinary finds dating back to the Marajoara civilization.

These funeral urns painted in a variety of colors are reminiscent of classical forms found in the Mediterranean, Greek vases with Celtic spiral patterns.

The Amazon Basin has been settled for 11,000 years, but for a long time, the population here was small, but 2,000 years ago, there was a population explosion, and this growth took place extremely quickly.

NARRATOR: In 1541, according to an eyewitness, a Spanish expedition ventured up the Amazon in search of the legendary City of Gold.

The chronicler reports that they were suddenly attacked.

Arrows rained down upon them from a densely populated river settlement.

Naked, light-skinned women were fighting on the front line.

Reports about these fearless Amazons led to the river being given its present name.

Such accounts were considered untrustworthy by many... but decades of archeological work has shown that the jungle was filled with large settlements.

Thousands of residents were supported by lush fields of maize tended with special agricultural techniques.

One of their plants will conquer the entire world-- cacao, used to make chocolate.

Today experts have rediscovered the extensive civilization that once flourished along the Amazon.

They have no doubt that a cultural revolution took place there 2,000 years ago.

Ceramics found by researchers show how techniques evolved in leaps and bounds during that time.

Did these new styles reflect the influence of outsiders?

[Schaan speaking Portuguese] This special ceramic style is really fascinating.

It was first developed in Marajoara.

Funeral urns in such a range of colors only appeared in the Upper Amazon region much later than this.

That's why I believe that the development began on Marajoara and influenced the other regions later.

[Speaking Portuguese] It's often suggested that this new style might come from outside the region.

NARRATOR: The similarities of the artifacts to Mediterranean objects raise a fascinating possibility.

Could seafarers have brought new ideas from the Old World?

For amateur archeologist Heinz Budweg, these artifacts can only mean one thing-- foreign explorers landed in Brazil long before Columbus-- and he's found more evidence-- an ancient ax.

[Budweg speaking German] The merchant told me it came from Rio Guapore, the river that forms the border between Brazil and Bolivia, and he said he bought it direct from a Bolivian Indian.

The thing has to be genuine.

Even the wooden handle was still quite damp.

NARRATOR: A rich patina that developed over many years covers the metal ax, and there is a curious figure on the head of the blade.

BUDWEG: The head of a bull, or it could perhaps be an antelope, but in any case, it's an animal that didn't exist in South America.

NARRATOR: Budweg has done everything he can to shed light on the mysterious find from the jungle.

At the University of Sao Paulo's Institute for Geosciences, scientists examine the ax using the latest laboratory technology.

The result comes as a surprise.

[Woman speaking Portuguese] The ax head is 61% copper and 39% zinc, and metal alloys like this didn't exist in America before the arrival of Europeans.

[Budweg speaking German] Another important point is that the wooden handle comes from the forest in the Pantanal, a marshy region around to Rio Paraguay, and this wood has been dated by scientific methods.

It's about 1,500 years old.

NARRATOR: Evidence points to an extensive trading network along the rivers of the Amazon Basin.

Could this have been how the ax got to the interior of the continent?

Did Celts and Carthaginians simply follow the river from the coast, heading further and further upstream?

It has been reported that Indians escaping from slave traders fled as far as the Chachapoyan region.

They would have covered a distance of almost 2,500 miles by boat and on foot inland from the coast.

So Giffhorn thinks it is possible very determined Celtic Iberians could have made the same journey... but could these emigrants have made their way through the biggest jungle in the world threatened by wild animals and unknown diseases?

And even if that made it through the jungle, they would ultimately have faced a seemingly insurmountable roadblock-- the Andes.

Could the Celts and Carthaginians have made it as far as Kuelap, the giant fortress built by the Chachapoya in the mountains at 10,000 feet?

This computer reconstruction reveals that, in terms of the mass of stone used, Kuelap is even bigger than the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt.

The Chachapoya were fantastic masons, but where did they obtain the knowledge to build structures like this?

For over 25 years, archeologist Warren Church of Columbus State University has studied the Chachapoya.

He does not see the Celtic-Carthaginian influence in the ruins of Kuelap as Giffhorn does.

He sees the heritage of a powerful Andean culture.

CHURCH: They're really best known for their architecture, but that is what we see now.

That's the best-preserved thing that sits on the surface as we, as visitors, walk around, and some of it is really quite spectacular.

Some of it is monumental. It speaks power.

NARRATOR: Peter Lerche has been living in Peru for more than 30 years.

He was even mayor of the provincial capital.

He is completely captivated by the people here, the living and the dead.

LERCHE: How can we explain Kuelap?

All the C-14 analyses we've performed so far suggest that it's not really very old.

It dates from around 800 A.D.

The exception is here at the main entrance--500 A.D.

[Giffhorn speaking German] The first time I encountered Kuelap, I was particularly puzzled because no other fortress in the whole of America displays similar construction techniques, but I knew fortresses like this were quite common in the Mediterranean region during classical times.

NARRATOR: One detail in the main temple at Kuelap appears to support Giffhorn's theory.

The head engraved in the wall is reminiscent of a gruesome practice on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Celts would decapitate their prisoners and hang their heads as a proud demonstration of power.

Did the Chachapoya also practice this ritual?

[Giffhorn speaking German] The Celtic custom of using human heads as trophies is connected with their belief that the soul resides in the skull.

That's why they treated the head as hugely important, and this also explains why they were masters of trepanation, but they weren't the only ones.

NARRATOR: Both the Celts and the Chachapoya would make a hole in the skull of a sick person to relieve pressure on the brain and drive away evil spirits.

[Man speaking German] In the case of the Chachapoya, we know they used this technique because it's described in Hippocratic accounts dating back to about 500 B.C., and trepanation was also practiced later by the Celts, which we know from archeological finds in Lower Austria.

So this represents a very interesting parallel between the cultures.

NARRATOR: Is the use of the same healing method more evidence of contact between the two cultures, as Professor Giffhorn believes?

The decisive proof may well be hidden at Kuelap.

CHURCH: The Chachapoya were special in the sense that they did these kinds of very intricate stonework.

The building is supercharged with power, whatever those symbols mean, and they meant something and very powerful to the Chachapoya.

NARRATOR: Who were the inhabitants of this fortress?

Where did the population live?

Peter Lerche.

LERCHE: Here we have a particularly large Chacha roundhouse.

We can see holes in the walls where beams were placed to support the second floor to form the floor above.

Two-story houses were required in Kuelap to make maximum use of the space available because 3,000 people lived here.

NARRATOR: To his day, the natives of the Andean highlands tend their fields using methods and implements handed down from their forefathers.

Agriculture in the days of the Chachapoya would not have looked very different in this landscape of steep slopes and rugged canyon walls.

CHURCH: The Maranon Canyon is deeper and wider than the Grand Canyon in the United States.

This is a hard place to live, and, really, it's been very hard for many archeologists to accept that anybody would want to live there-- 'What are they doing here?

Why do they want to live there?'-- and it sets up the mystery.

'OK. Clearly, they didn't choose to live there.'

NARRATOR: The massive citadel of the Chachapoya still conceals many puzzles, but Professor Giffhorn believes he is close to finding solutions.

GIFFHORN: Fortresses like Kuelap are not found anywhere in America, but archeologists have never considered that an explanation of its origin might be found outside America.

NARRATOR: On the Atlantic coast of Spain, the remains of a fortress city can be found on manmade terraces.

Iberian Celts constructed the city more than 2,000 years ago, just before or after the destruction of Carthage, and, just as in Kuelap, the houses were built on round stone foundations.

Here, too, the people who built the city chose an extraordinary location for protection.

The similarities between the Celtic Iberian settlement in Spain and the mountain fortress in the Andes support Professor Giffhorn's theory.

Is there a link?

The mystery can only be explained in South America.

There is still no conclusive proof that Celts and Carthaginians were ever present in Peru.

Even for the Incas, the kingdom of the Chachapoya was simply too remote.

Hardly any chroniclers from the Spanish colonial period ventured this far, either.

Today the Chachapoya settlements are ghost towns hidden on steep rock faces.

Funereal figures bear witness to their strange ancestral cult.

Archeologists are exploring a burial site that was erected at a dizzying height.

The warriors buried here were headhunters, making them unique in the entire Andean highlands.

German archeologist Klaus Koschmeider is also fascinated by the Chachapoya.

[Koschmeider speaking German] Burying people in houses is actually quite normal for the Chachapoya.

We find quite frequent evidence of burials in the roundhouses.

However, this might indicate an origin in the Amazon Basin region because it's still the custom there to bury people in houses.

NARRATOR: The ritual sites are decorated with paintings, and--despite the tropical climate, since they are protected by the steep rock faces-- they can still be made out quite clearly.

There are figures in splendid costumes crowned with clumps of feathers or wreaths of light.

Another excavation also reveals a being with a magnificent headdress.

In the Celtic mythology of ancient Europe, the god Cernnunos was depicted with similar antlers, as can be seen here on the silver cauldron of Gundestrup in Denmark.

KOSCHMEIDER: Here, we have an extraordinary image of a boat with a person sitting inside it.

On the other side is a very simple similar example.

NARRATOR: Klaus Koschmeider also thinks the Chachapoya moved here from the east, although his east is only a few hundred miles away in the Amazon region.

Only the dead know the truth.

Every storm reveals more skeletons and destroys other traces of the Chachapoya.

For days on end, the rain in the mountains continues without a break.

The sources of the Amazon are transformed into raging torrents.

In Limabamba, the people are not the only ones who have learned to come to terms with these natural forces.

Everybody makes the best of the situation which is likely to be repeated many times during the rainy season.

CHURCH: Probably, one of the biggest concerns was just the severe weather-- tremendous hailstorms there, great rainstorms unlike any rainstorms I'd ever experienced anywhere in the world.

I've seen in Chachapoyas it just seems like the sky is absolutely falling, and the ground under your feet turns into liquid.

It's, from one rainstorm to the next, valleys transformed with landslides.

It's a very dynamic environment, and it makes perfect sense that they lived on the top of the mountain just for that very reason.

NARRATOR: Several years ago, ethnologist Peter Lerche was alarmed.

Grave robbers were plundering a pre-Columbian burial site, and many of the mummies had been left in the rain unprotected.

With no time to lose, Lerche organized a rescue expedition, and they set off up the mountain from Limabamba, their destination-- Laguna de los Condores, the Lagoon of the Condors, where local farmers had discovered a previously unknown burial site at an altitude of 8,500 feet, and the team, headed by the German-Peruvian Lerche, raced to preserve it.

The grave robbers had been busy, and the site was in shocking disarray.

Many of the sarcophagi had been smashed, the graves devastated, and fragments of Chachapoya mummies scattered about.

With the rescuers performing an emergency excavation, they managed to transport more than 200 mummies to the provincial capital.

Today the dead from the Lagoon of the Condors are kept in Limabamba.

Their bodies were originally sewn inside sacks in a crouching position.

After the excavation, some of the mummies were examined at the University of Vienna.

The remains were of people who died before the Spanish arrived.

Surprisingly, they showed traces of diseases which had been assumed to arrive in South America with the Europeans.

In Goettingen, Professor Schultz, a paleopathologist, attempts to get information from the remains of our ancestors about the illnesses they suffered from and the causes of their deaths.

He's able to identify cases of tuberculosis among the Chachapoya mummies.

[Schultz speaking German] Here, we have a lesion which is typical for tuberculosis.

The structure is ulcerated and eaten away, and these typical changes in bone structure caused by tuberculosis were found in skeletons and mummies of the Chachapoya, which is, of course, extremely curious because we now have evidence that the disease was present in the Chachapoya population to a significant degree, even in the time before Columbus.

[Speaking German] NARRATOR: Unfortunately, the evidence of tuberculosis alone does not prove there was transatlantic contact with the Chachapoya before Columbus.

Ancient traces of the disease have also been found in other areas of South America.

[Schultz speaking German] The cases of tuberculosis we've so far been able to prove among the Chachapoya really do correspond to cases that we know from the classical period.

If these people were the descendants of people who came from the Old World, that would be a possible explanation, and we could go further, suggesting that maybe the disease found its way to the New World by this route at a relatively early stage.

NARRATOR: Wherever the people who constructed Kuelap came from, why did they build such a massive fortress here?

Peter Lerche suggests that Kuelap was a bulwark against invaders from the lowland regions to provide protection against neighboring tribes who suffered from starvation during the regular droughts.

[Lerche speaking German] Archeologists have found more than 50 skeletons here with skulls that were smashed in.

NARRATOR: Were the victims attackers or defenders?

The fatal injuries could have been caused by axes or slingshots.

One thing is certain-- they died violent deaths.

CHURCH: That frontier can be, often, a place of lots of jockeying for position for who gets to trade with who, who gets the wealth, who gets to occupy the site at the trailhead, who gets this much take, who gets to be the middleman, and so I'm sure that there was a great deal of internal politicking, shuffling, squabbling, and probably bloodshed.

NARRATOR: Today the administrative center of the province of Chachapoya deals with modern questions of politics and commerce... [Whistle blows] while in the nearby archeological museum, anthropologists are gathering important information about the fate of the Chachapoya and about their origin.

[Woman speaking Spanish] This mummy is one of a family.

It's a 25-year-old woman with her 6-year-old child and her husband.

The holes in the skull, 3 in the back of the head and one in the forehead, appear to have been made during wartime.

NARRATOR: Again and again, they find indications of unnatural causes of death, suggestions of murder and violence.

LERCHE: The Chachapoya had the reputation of being an extremely warlike people, and they used slingshots as their main weapon, both to defend themselves against attack and to attack their enemies.

NARRATOR: Their weapon of choice differed completely from those used by other Peruvian tribes.

Once again, the trail leads us back to the Old World, to Majorca.

Here, we find a stone slinger champion on his way to a training session.

Juan Caballero is the Balearics' champion with the record for most direct hits.

Professor Giffhorn has brought the champion a reconstructed original Chachapoya slingshot from Peru.

Las palas son identicas.

NARRATOR: When this is compared with a traditional slingshot from Majorca, Juan is startled to discover that the two are practically identical.

Even the unique way of fastening the loop around the projectile is exactly the same.

Juan remembers that his ancestors used to wrap the slingshots around their heads... much like the Chachapoya had proudly worn theirs, though now this custom has died out.

However, in Peru's Huancas community, some traditions have been maintained.

Many of the inhabitants here still have typical Chachapoya names, as has been the case for centuries.

Clotilde Alva, a potter, is one of those who is proud of her legendary ancestors.

ALVA: Pottery is an ancient tradition from the time of the Chachapoya.

It has outlasted the arrival of the Spaniards.

CHURCH: We do know that Chachapoya were actually very active traders.

They're in the perfect position of middlemen.

Everybody wants to be a middleman.

That's the most lucrative, really, position.

So they had maximum exposure to all of these things, which really is one reason why they have so many different influences in their art and their architecture and their culture.

They really have the best of all worlds at their fingertips like New York City in the sense that they were almost a port of trade, geographically speaking, very strategic.

NARRATOR: Their women were also highly prized.

A painting from the Inca period shows captured Chachapoya women with light skin and reddish blond hair.

The Inca rulers would often choose the most beautiful girls for themselves.

Even today there are blonds, like Cecilia Flores, who lives at the edge of a village in Huancas with her family.

In appearance, it is easy to distinguish her from the dark-haired, brown-skinned neighbors, but Cecilia lives the life of a typical villager.

Each day, she takes her husband something to eat and drink at his workplace, as has always been the custom.

She can't explain why her appearance is so distinctive.

[Flores speaking Spanish] I'm one of 4 children, and 3 of us have blond hair.

Two of my cousins do, as well-- they live in the city of Chachapoya-- and also one of their daughters while the others are all dark-haired.

[Speaking Spanish] My father couldn't explain to us why we are so blond.

His grandparents also had hair like this.

[Speaks Spanish] CHURCH: There's no statement that says all the Chachapoya were white.

Cieza de Leon remarked after travels throughout Peru and throughout the Indies, as they were known, and Panama and the areas that he walked through, he said, 'These people, these Chachapoya, 'are the whitest people I have seen.

'They are very agreeable, graceful.

'The women are beautiful and often taken as concubines or wives,' and he described how they were dressed, sometimes with a slingshot wrapped around the head of the males, woolen clothing or cotton clothing, but he was clearly impressed with them and thought they were attractive people.

NARRATOR: Some report there have always been a lot of light-skinned, blond locals in the village of Limabamba, although originally, it was mostly populated by Indians.

Just as in Huancas, nobody has any information about ancestors of any sort from Europe.

[Singing in Spanish] NARRATOR: A visit to an elementary school confirms a significant number of the children here have light-colored skin and blond hair.

Now saliva samples are being taken from these children in order to establish their genetic fingerprint.

In this Y-chromosome study, nonrelated male donors are tested, but Valentina also provides a sample.

She comes from a native family, but none of her relatives can recall any ancestors from a non-Indian background.

[Boy singing] NARRATOR: Juan has given a saliva sample, too.

His red hair makes him an ideal test subject.

However, as with the other pupils, this could be caused by a genetic mutation from exclusively Indian ancestors.

Lab tests at the University of Rotterdam in the Netherlands are intended to suggest where the blond gene may have originated.

Here, an international team of experts awaits the samples from Peru in the Molecular Genetic Institute.

Under the supervision of Professor Kayser, the scientists succeed in identifying a special marker for hair color in the human genome.

KAYSER: So now we have the first genetic results from the lab of the Indian samples, and the first thing we looked for is the question, is the red hair color of European origin, or is it not of European origin?

We used DNA analysis to basically classify the people according to their geographic origin.

So what we see there is that these individuals are of mixed ancestry.

So we indeed see between 10% and 50% European origin, which does coincide with the red hair, but the remaining part of their genome, as far as we can say from our analysis, is of Native American origin.

NARRATOR: The genetic analysis also identifies the part of Europe that gave birth to the ancestors of the test person.

Did seafarers from Europe really get as far as America in ancient times?

Did they venture up the Amazon 2,000 years ago to reach Peru and the Chachapoya homeland?

[Boy speaking Spanish] NARRATOR: The answer may lie in the genes of these children.

KAYSER: All the evidence we have at this moment really points to the western part of Europe.

We detected a type of Y chromosome called R1b that has its highest frequency on the British Isles and in the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula.

NARRATOR: Coruna, once settled by the Celts, is in northern Spain.

The destiny of the people here is determined by fishing and sea trade.

Did the forefathers of these present-day Galecians take their biological and cultural legacy with them to Peru almost 2,000 years ago?

Celts did have the ability to sail in the open ocean-- we know that, at least-- as did the survivors of the defeated superpower Carthage, who were force to flee from the Roman legions.

These were seafarers with the courage of those who had nothing to lose and the desperation of those searching for a new home.

Did they leave traces of the Old World-- roundhouses and fortress walls... an ax decorated with an animal unknown to South Americans... funereal urns with Mediterranean patterns, and highly developed medical treatments?

Opinions about these theories differ.

CHURCH: I do not see a break in the sequence.

I don't see a cultural turnover.

I don't see an invasion of foreign styles, foreign elements, something that indicates to me, 'Whoa, wow, everything changed right here in this date.'

Obviously because they are unique, they attract a lot of attention.

NARRATOR: Hans Giffhorn is also convinced that his idea is correct and hopes for new scientific evidence.

GIFFHORN: There's been very little work on exploring the Chachapoya culture.

So I'm expecting lots of surprises.

NARRATOR: So far, however, there are only suggestions that support the professor's vision, but as yet, no smoking gun.

NARRATOR: The 'Secrets of the Dead' investigation continues online.

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