Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: I wouldn’t even do what they did in 1839 today. Forget that.

Quick synopsis: Two guys went into the Jungle and discovered the Mayans were way more legit than anyone gave them credit for.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The archaeological site of Copan, in Honduras, was a treasure trove of ancient Mayan architecture and culture. John Lloyd Stephens bought it for $50. Manhattan all over again.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: I cannot stress this enough. Frederick Catherwood’s art is absolutely amazing. When you compare what he did IN THE MIDDLE OF THE JUNGLE IN 1839 with pictures of the site today, it is utterly unbelievable. It’s as if he took a photograph.

My Take: I never would have been an explorer. Correction: I will never be an explorer.

John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood met in London. They read an account of ruins in Honduras and thought, “this will be fun.” I’ll never understand the mindset but thank God people like this exist.

The Maya were not unknown at this point in history, but more unappreciated. What we now know today is they were an extremely complex society which challenged the European views of the world when Stephens and Catherwood “rediscovered” them and highlighted their extensive accomplishments and culture.

It’s also nice that unlike many explorers, they were not absolutely terrible people who treated people like garbage. That’s saying something.

Verdict: A great book for anyone who loves exploration.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Buddy Levy, Labyrinth of Ice
  • Buddy Levy, Conquistador
  • Andre Resendez, A Land So Strange
  • Candice Millard, River of Doubt
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Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen
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