Finding a lost city, untouched by Western ways, sounds like a plot of a movie. Oh wait, it has been, many times. But this is real life and archeologists on an expedition deep in the Honduran rain forest discovered remains of a real remote lost city.
Straight out of Indiana Jones and other movie searches for lost civilizations, the dramatic finding deep in an uninhabited jungle region offers scientists a virtually unknown new culture to explore. The team of archeologists went to the region after being lured by long-standing rumors of a mysterious “White City,” which was also referred to in some legends as the ancient “City of the Monkey God,” according to National Geographic.
Instead of a Monkey God or a Crystal Skull, the archaeologists found and surveyed a remarkable ancient lost city in the eastern Honduran rain forest that belonged to a culture from an estimated 1,000 years ago that has since vanished. There are extensive plazas, mounds, earthworks and even an earthen pyramid at the lost city site. The team also discovered stone sculptures that were presumably untouched since the city was abandoned by whatever civilization had lived there.
Unlike other ruins that archeologists have unearthed, this vanished culture has remained virtually known and unstudied. The archaeological team from the U.S. and Honduras has yet to determine a name for it. They are also not revealing the exact location to protect the site from looters and treasure hunters.
One Mesoamerican researcher on the team, Christopher Fisher from Colorado State University, commented on the rarity of finding such as site in pristine, untouched condition. “The undisturbed context is unique,” he pointed out.
So far, they have found a cache of 52 artifacts believed to be from 1000 to 1400 A.D. that were peeking up from the earth, but believe many more could be under ground in the lost city, possibly in burial sites. One object is shaped like a helmeted head of what they believe to be a shaman. Another theory is that the object is tied to ritualized games in pre-Columbian times. Among the other things found so far are stone ceremonial seats as well as sculpted vessels decorated with snakes, vultures and other animals. The objects were documented but left unexcavated.
For a hundred years, explorers talked about white ramparts of a lost city glimpsed through the jungle foliage. Local indigenous people told tales of a “white house” in a mystical jungle paradise where natives took refuge from Spanish conquistadores but never returned.
Several expeditions searched for the White City or Ciudad Blanca, including one in 1940, led by Theodore Morde and sponsored by the Museum of the American Indian, which is now part of the Smithsonian. Morde returned from the region with a trove of artifacts, claiming to have found the city and talked about a buried statue of the monkey god. He would not reveal the location for fear that the site would be looted and it never was identified before he committed suicide.
The remote area of Honduras known as La Mosquitia reportedly contains some of the last unexplored areas on earth. Deep in the dense rain forest there, where the lost city was discovered, is a region filled with swamps and thick vegetation hiding unknown species and undoubtedly other things besides this city waiting to be found and, hopefully, not destroyed.
By Dyanne Weiss