I recently read the account of Colonal Fawcett's exploration of South America - 'Journey to the Lost City of Z'. This thread isn't about him or his
explorations, however, but just one thing that he comments on in his account. The journals are peppered with his observations on natural history and
this involves one of those observations. From pp75 -77...
.. Talking of birds, all through the Peruvian and Bolivian Montana is to be found a small bird like a kingfisher, which makes its nest in
neat round holes in the rocky escarpment above the river. These holes can plainly be seen, but are not usually accessible, and strangely enough they
are found only where the birds are present. I once expressed surprise that they were lucky enough to find nesting-holes conveniently placed for them,
and so neatly hollowed out - as though with a drill.
"They make the holes themselves." The words were spoken by a man who had spent a quarter of a century in the forests. "I've seen how they do it,
many a time. I've watched, I have, and seen the birds come to the cliff with leaves of some sort in their beaks, and cling to the rock like
woodpeckers to a tree while they rubbed the leaves in a circular motion over the surface. Then they would fly off, and come back with more leaves,
and carry on with the rubbing process. After three or four repetitions they dropped the leaves and started pecking at the place with their sharp
beaks, and - here's the marvellous part - they would soon open out a round hole in the stone. Then off they'd go again, and go through the rubbing
process with leaves several times before continuing to peck. It took several days, but finally they had opened out holes deep enough to contain their
nests. I've climbed up and taken a look at them, and, believe me, a man couldn't drill a neater hole!"
"Do you mean to say that the bird's beak can penetrate solid rock?"
"A woodpecker's beak penetrates solid wood, doesn't it? ...No, I don't think the bird can get through solid rock. I believe, as everyone who has
watched them believes, that those birds know of a leaf with juice that can soften up rock till it's like wet clay."
Fawcett relates that at first he dismissed it as a "tall tale", then after hearing further accounts, as a "popular tradition" but eventually he heard
another story that convinced him of the existance of this plant that can soften rock. This later story involved a man wearing spurs who, having lost
his horse, was forced to walk some distance and passed through thick bush to find on the other side that his spurs had been eaten away. On discussing
the matter, this man was informed that what had eaten his spurs away was the wide patch of growth of a certain plant "about a foot high, with dark
reddish leaves" that he had passed through. He was told "... That's the stuff the Incas used for shaping stones. The juice will soften rock up till
it's like paste. ..."
Much later in the journals Colonel Fawcett returned to the subject of this plant. On page 252, Fawcett is discussing the Incan Empire and states "I
have heard it said that they fitted their stones together by means of a liquid that softened the surfaces to be joined to the consistency of clay."
He then recounts the following in a footnote.
Another friend of mine told me the following story:
"Some years ago, when I was working in the mining camp at Cerro de Pasco (a place 14,000 feet up in the Andes of Central Peru), I went out one Sunday
with some other Gringos to visit some old Inca or Pre-Inca graves - to see if we could find anything worthwhile. We took our grub with us,
and, of course, a few bottles of pisco and beer; and a peon - a cholo - to help dig.
"Well, we had our lunch when we got to the burial place, and afterwards started in to open up some graves that seemed to be untouched. We worked
hard, and knocked off every now and then for a drink. I don't drink myself, but the others did, especially one chap who poured too much pisco
into himself and was inclined to be noisy. When we knocked off, all we had found was an earthenware jar of about a quart capacity, and with liquid
" 'I bet it's chicha! said the noisy one. 'Let's try it and see what sort of stuff the Incas drank!'
" 'Probably poison us if we do,' observed another.
" 'Tell you what, then - let's try it on the peon!'
"They dug the seal and stopper out of the jar's mouth, sniffed at the contents and called the peon over to them.
" 'Take a drink of this chicha,' ordered the drunk. The peon took the jar, hesitated, and then with an expression of fear spreading
over his face thrust it into the drunk's hands and backed away.
" 'No, no, senor,' he murmured. 'Not that. That's not chicha!' He turned and made off.
"The drunk put the jar down on a flat-topped rock and set off in pursuit. 'Come on, boys - catch him!' he yelled. They caught the wretched man,
dragged him back, and ordered him to drink the contents of the jar. The peon struggled madly, his eyes popping. There was a bit of a
scrimmage, and the jar was knocked over and broken, its contents forming a puddle on the top of the rock. Then the peon broke free and took to
"Everyone laughed. It was a huge joke. But the exercise had made them thirsty and they went over to the sack where the beer-bottles lay.
"About ten minutes later I bent over the rock and casually examined the pool of spilled liquid. It was no longer liquid; the whole patch where it had
been, and the rock under it, were as soft as wet cement! It was as though the stone had melted, like wax under the influence of heat."
(I don't want to get into anything else to do with these accounts other than the plant and it's effect & usage, that is what this thread is about, the
accounts are of their time as we can see.)
Well, that is all that I have been able to find so far in reference to this plant.
To summarise - it is described as growing around a foot tall and has dark reddish leaves, and is found in Peru and Bolivia. The leaves are utilised
by a particular bird to create its nesting holes in the stone escarpment above rivers. It was reputedly used by the ancient peoples of the region to
soften stone to create neat fitting joints for construction. According to the accounts, it may also swiftly corrode metal.
I am also minded of the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull and I wonder whether, if it exists, the plant could have been used to shape such an artefact as
Please - has anyone else ever heard of such a plant from any other source? Or if not, I would still be most interested in your thoughts and comments.
Thanks in advance.
edit on 21-4-2011 by skjalddis because: (no reason given)
edit on 21-4-2011 by skjalddis because: typos