Subterranean cities and temples played a major role in pre-European Latin
American societies. Religious rites of all kinds were held in these underground
locations, and tradition holds that they were used for the storage of treasure
and forgotten lore. Still other traditions hold that they were not built by the
civilizations, but by ancient “elder races” whose only remains can be found
in mysterious megalithic constructions around the world.
Official science dismisses this speculation with the same certainty as they
would brush aside the factuality of the video game “Tomb Raider,” which
follows the exploits of cyberheroine Lara Croft through a number of underground
Andean locations. But can we really be so sure?
The Quest for Lost Chincana
Dr. Raul Rios Centeno of Peru’s INDECOPI organization formed part of a
six-man team (five researchers and a guide) who braved the dizzying altitude of
the Andes to go in search of La Chincana, the subterranean city located beneath
the former Inca capital of Cuzco.
On July 15, 1998, after undergoing a brief acclimatization period to the
3,500-meter elevation of Cuzco, Dr. Rios’s team met up with Inez Puente de la
Vega, a historian whose knowledge of lnca culture and command of the Runa-Simi
variant of the Quechua language would prove of great help in their expedition.
The group’s initial efforts focused on finding a point of access to the
fabled Chincana. Locals informed them that one of the main entrances to the
underground city was precisely beneath the Sacsahuaymán archaeological fortress
(whose giant stonework is pre-Inca in origin) about a kilometer away from Cuzco.
Other sources hinted at the existence of two other gateways: one in the
Koricancha, or Palace of the Sun, which was partially demolished during the
Colonial period to build the Carmelite Monastery, and still another beneath
Cuzco’s great cathedral.
Not surprisingly, scholars at the University of San Antonio de Abad and the
Andean University, both of them in Cuzco, refused to speak to the explorers
about the putative underground city. But as chance would have it, the Rios party
managed to gain access to the Andean University’s library, where a fascinating
piece of information was uncovered.
In 1952, a mixed group of twelve French and American explorers managed to
gain access through the Sacsahuaymán entrance with enough provisions to last
for five days as they embarked upon what they termed “the greatest discovery
since Machu Picchu.”
The team ventured into the Sacsahuaymán entrance and nothing further was
heard from them until fifteen days later, when French explorer Phillipe
Lamontierre emerged from the hole suffering from acute dementia, with visible
signs of malnourishment and even the bubonic plague (attributable, says Dr.
Rios, to the bats inhabiting the underground spaces). The broken survivor
indicated that his fellow adventurers had died, and some of them had even fallen
down unfathomed abysses. Among the objects he brought back was an ear of corn
made of solid gold, which was later entrusted to the Cuzco Museum of
While sobered by the Lamontierre experience, Dr. Rios’s group resolutely
asked the National Institute of Culture’s authorization to enter the depths at
their own risk, and requested that the concrete plug covering the entrance be
demolished. Officialdom turned a deaf ear to this plea, and the group had to
find more devious ways of accomplishing its objectives.
Having given “valuable consideration” to the security guards at
Sacsahuaymán, the Rios group managed to get into one of the connecting chambers
to the underground complex. Equipped with infrared goggles, the group penetrated
a chamber that measured scarcely 1.13 meters from the door’s stone frame to
the rocky floor. “The stench within the [connecting chamber],” writes Dr.
Rios, “was nauseating, as it had been employed as a latrine for some time. For
some strange reason, the stonework did not reflect infrared rays. However, with
the aid of our friend Jorge Zegarra, we were able to apply a RAD-2 X-ray filter,
which provided a radio-opacity of 400 to 600 percent that of aluminum.
“It was thus that we reached a hallway whose height progressively
diminished until reaching a scant 94 centimeters,” continues his letter,
“and given that our average height is 1.80 meters, we had no choice but to
return to our starting point.”
The Rios party tried to obtain readings on their Geiger counter without much
success, but through the RAD-2 X-ray filter, they managed to secure a number of
photos which led them to the conclusion that “a coating of some dense
metal”-comparable to lead-existed within the hallways, and that there were
cracks in the stonework which indeed allowed for the passage of X-rays.
At this point, the guide abandoned the mission out of a very real fear of
reprisals by the Culture Institute.
Dr. Rios concluded by saying that the images captured by means of the RAD-2
device would be analyzed by Carlos Garcia and Guillermo LaRosa Richardson of the
School of Engineering in Lima, Peru.
Underground Empires Hot Times Under Moscow
There are, of course, individuals who remain skeptical about any notion of
subterranean occupancy of our world (beyond provisional shelters and subway
stations), indicating the difficulty in providing ventilation, temperature
control, and sanitation for any permanent underground tenancy, particularly one
involving tens of thousands of people.
However, the prestigious Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (May/June 1997)
presented an extraordinary article involving the existence of multiple
subterranean tiers under the city of Moscow. Following the adventures of Vadim
Mikhailov and his group “Diggers of the Underground Planet,” the BAS article
reveals the shadowy underworld of the Russian capital. The Diggers made their
way through fallout shelters to a colossal warehouse owned by a Russian marine
biology institution, containing, among other nightmarish holdings, “a room of
tanks of formalin, containing various sea monsters.”
After well over a decade of urban spelunking, the Diggers presented the world
with a map of the nightmares that occupy these levels: Gypsies, malcontents,
dissidents, and “professional hermits” have occupied the levels closest to
the surface, gaining access through heating vents and sewer systems. On one
particular journey deep under the Centrobank building, the Diggers encountered
squads of uniformed people lighting their way with powerful halogen lamps. The
authorities dismiss such claims as fanciful, but the BAS article quotes
Mikhailov as saying that the authorities in fact have no idea who these armed,
masked individuals could be. He notes that the security services themselves do
not venture down to those levels.