Ancient Civilizations and Mysterious Disappearances on WXXI-TV

Ancient Civilizations and Mysterious Disappearances on WXXI-TV

Wed, 07/20/2011 - 8:00pm - 11:00pm

Tune in as NOVA and Secrets of the Dead scour modern day South and Central America looking for clues to ancient mysteries.

On April 20, 1925, Colonel Percy Fawcett, his elder son Jack Fawcett and Jack’s lifelong friend, Raleigh Rimmell, departed from Cuiabá, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, to find “Z” — Col. Fawcett’s name for what he believed to be an ancient city lost in the uncharted jungles of Brazil. The search for the mysterious Lost City of Z would be the great explorer’s last expedition. All three men would vanish without a trace. Eighty-six years later, Secrets of the Dead  has mounted a modern day quest with explorer Niall McCann to find the truth behind the disappearance of famed adventurer Col. Percy Fawcett and his party  in Lost in the Amazon, airing Wednesday, July 20 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

Then, at 9 p.m., NOVA: The Great Inca Rebellion goes to an impoverished suburb of Lima, Peru, where an ancient cemetery crammed with mummies is excavated by Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock. In a truly startling find, he discovers corpses that differ from all the rest. They have been hastily buried and disfigured by multiple, appalling wounds and fractures. Forensic experts help to determine that these remains are victims of a battle that pitted club-wielding Inca warriors against Spanish cavalry. The forensic evidence may be a decisive clue that helps explain a long-standing mystery about the Spanish conquest of Peru. How, in 1532, did a tiny band of Spanish soldiers crush the mighty Inca Empire, then the most powerful civilization in the Americas? Were the conquistadors' obvious advantages - steel arms, gunpowder and horses - the key to their success, as is generally supposed? Or were disease and civil war more significant factors that were downplayed by the invaders? By uncovering new evidence from the Lima cemetery, NOVA and National Geographic reveal the untold final chapter of the conquest: not the Spanish walkover familiar from well-known accounts, but rather a protracted and complex war of astonishing brutality that almost led to the Spanish losing their precarious foothold in the Andes.

Finally, at 10 p.m., Secrets of the Dead "Aztec Massacre" paints a new picture of the violent relations between the Aztecs and the Conquistadors and rewrites much of what we thought we knew about the Aztec civilization. Throughout recent times, historians have believed that when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Aztec territory in the 15th century, they were welcomed as returning light-skinned gods by the Aztecs, who put up little resistance to their conquest. But now, a new find outside of Mexico City is turning history on its head. The discovery: more than 400 bodies, many of which show signs of having been mutilated and even eaten. More important, more than 40 of the bodies appear to be European, indicating that the Aztecs not only resisted the invaders, they sacrificed them to their gods, pulling their still-beating hearts from chests and stringing their heads (along with the heads of their horses) on wooden skull racks for public display. Exploring the archeology of the site, the forensics of the bones and beautiful but grotesque codices that document the events, this program paints a new picture of the violent relations between the Aztecs and the conquistadors and rewrites much of what we thought we knew about the Aztec civilization.

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