It was a major claim – and one that seriously would tarnish his profile, for his source would soon deny he had said no such thing. For many, the incident proved that von Daniken was a fabricator of lies.
The story that brought von Daniken to South America partly began in the Brazilian town of Manaus. There, on March 3, 1972, a German journalist Karl Brugger met a local Amazonian Indian, Tatunca Nara, in the backstreet tavern Gracas a Deus.
The meeting would result in Brugger’s book The Chronicle of Akakor, published in 1976, which saw a number of foreign editions and created the legend of Akakor, a mythical town anywhere deep within the Amazonian jungle, still left to be discovered.
The title of the book was supposedly the same title as the chronicle that the Amazonian Ugha Mogulala which also makes an exterior in the Indiana Jones movie held sacred – or at least central – to their mythology and philosophy. Indeed, Tatunca Nara claimed to be a member of this unknown Amazonian tribe, the son of a native and the daughter of a German missionary – which was supposed to account for his faultless German.
The mere notion that an Amazonian tribe had a written chronicle itself was remarkable, as the Amazon population is largely believed not to have a written language. A second bombshell was that Tatunca claimed that the Year Zero of the Chronicle was 10,481 BC – very much outside accepted archaeological dates for human occupation of the Amazon, but perfectly fitting in the Atlantis and Deluge hypothesis that many alternative researchers favoured as the anti-thesis to the science-wrought framework and which was, at the time, already made popular due to Edgar Cayce. The third bombshell was that the Gods came from a solar system known as Schwerta, and built an underground tunnel system in South America. Each element on its own and all together even more so made for a stunning revelation – or lie. But it is clear that von Daniken could do only one thing: come to South America and see what was what.
Tatunca Nara had made a series of tall claims and they definitely require the calibre of an Indiana Jones to test them to reality. The best proof in favour of them would be to discover any of the several cities in the Amazon jungle, including any of the thirteen underground cities, which this civilisation had allegedly left behind. Their most important ancient towns were said to be known as Akakor, Akanis and Akahim, as well as Cuczo and Macchu Picchu. The first, Akanis, was built on a fine isthmus in the country that is called Mexico, at a place where the two oceans Panama?. The second was Akakor apparently derived from Aka, i.e. fort, and kor, i.e., two – Fort Two and lay far up the Purus River, in a high valley in the mountains of the border between Brazil and Peru: The whole city is bounded by a high stone wall with thirteen gates. They are so narrow that they give contact only to one person a time. Tatunca added that the city had a Great Temple of the Sun, that it contained documents, such as maps and drawings telling the history of the Earth. One of the maps shows that our moon is not the first and not the only one in the history of the earth. The moon that we know began to approach the earth and to circle around it thousands of years ago.
The third fortress was Akahim, which was apparently not mention in the chronicle before the year 7315 BC, was linked with Akakor, and was situated on the borders of Brazil and Venezuela. Finally, Cuczo and Macchu Picchu were known to be genuine towns, but the latter’s history absolutely did not stretch anywhere as far back as even 1000 BC and seemed void of any ancient astronauts that Tatunca attached to them.
Tatunca Nara concluded that 26 stone cities were built around Akakor, including Humbaya and Paititi in Bolivia, Emin, Cadira in Venezuela, etc. As stone is rare in these locations, it merely underlined that, if genuine, these were indeed extraordinary finds. Alas, Tatunca added, all these were completely destroyed in the first Great Catastrophe thirteen years after the departure of the Gods. It meant that there was very little left to check on the ground. It also destined that Tatunca’s claims seem to be unverifiable. Was Tatunca telling the truth or was he a con artist? It was a very tall tale he told, and with the stakes being very high, Brugger decided to investigate and see where the rabbit – or Tatunca – would take him. The two decided to go on an expedition in search of Akahim, setting off on September 25, 1972, on a trip that would last six weeks. Akahim, however, was not discovered.
That was Act One. In 1976, The Chronicle of Akakor was published and the controversy was reignited. Part of the core message of the chronicle was the statement that there was a network of tunnels, some of it still in existence today and used by the Indians. On his part, during the summer of 1977, von Daniken travelled for a third time to Manaus, to meet with Tatunca Nara, in the hope that via Tatunca, he could produce confirmation and vindicate himself.
Apart from von Daniken and Brugger, a third European entered the scene: a former Swissair pilot Ferdinand Schmid, who was living in Brazil, and who contacted Tatunca Nara in 1975. In 1977 and 1978, the pair made several attempt to penetrate into the jungle, in search of Akahim. The 1978 expedition was joined by an archaeologist, Roldao Pires Brandao, added to the team by the Brazilian government. He was also the reason why the mission had to be abandoned: Brandao apparently shot himself in the arm, for unknown reasons. But once recovered, he got the Brazilian authorities sufficiently interested to set up an expedition of their own and he eventually set off with six men.
In its August 1, 1979 edition, Veja, a Brazilian magazine, reported the discovery of Akahim, counting a number of photographs. That same year, Tatunca and Schmid claimed to have found Akahim too – sort of. Early on, Tatunca had stated that Akahim had three large pyramids and they claim to have found these. Still, though seen, they had not visited the site itself and Schmid lost – or claimed to have lost – his camera and film.