"Lost City" To Be Excavated In Honduran Rainforest

The dense jungle of La Mosquitia is rumored to contain a mythical ancient city. worradirek/Shutterstock

Ever since the first Spanish conquistadores began exploring the mysterious jungles of Central and South America in the late 15th century, fables and legends about enchanting cities like El Dorado have captivated the imaginations of kings, explorers, tourists, and archaeologists. Yet while many of these famous metropoles have so far failed to materialize, one particular site may be about to lose its mythical status. A team of researchers has announced plans to begin excavating a “lost city” in Honduras, which could finally put an end to centuries of rumors.

Discovered in the dense rainforest of the remote La Mosquitia region, the ruins’ location makes it a potential candidate for the so-called "White City." This began attracting attention in the first half of the 20th century when anthropologists working in the area heard stories about a spectacular white house in the deepest part of the jungle, where indigenous people had hidden during the Spanish conquest.

It wasn’t long before historians began scouring the records in search of references to this forest retreat, and many thought they had found it in a report written about the famous conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1526, in which he described wealthy towns hidden in the region. Later, in the 1920s and '30s, a small number of American archaeologists began retrieving artifacts from La Mosquitia, suggesting that they may have belonged to a long-lost civilization that once inhabited the area.

Among those who visited La Mosquitia at this time was an explorer named Theodore Morde, who returned with tales of a giant statue of a “monkey god” buried deep in the jungle. His claims spawned the legend of the “City of the Monkey God,” although Morde was unable to provide concrete evidence for this.

Stories about the so-called 'City of the Monkey God' began in the early 20th century. Virgil Finlay for The American Weekly via Wikimedia Commons

However, in 2012 a team of scientists took part in a documentary film project to try and locate the city, which began by conducting an aerial survey of a valley in La Mosquitia. To do so, the researchers utilized a remote sensing method called LIDAR, which uses pulsed lasers to construct 3D images of features hidden beneath the ground.

When analyzing these images, the team discovered evidence of large plazas, earthen pyramids, and other features apparently built by an ancient civilization, about which so little is known that historians do not even have a name for it.

The researchers then traveled to the site of the ruins for the first time in early 2015, and were able to document the nature of this apparent lost city in greater detail. Among the many fascinating artifacts they discovered was a statue of a "were-jaguar," as well as vessels engraved with images of snakes and vultures.

None of the items discovered were removed from the site, and the team did not release details about the city’s precise location in order to ensure it was not looted before they could return to begin excavating it properly. That process has now begun, with a group of archaeologists planning to spend a month exploring the mysterious remains, after which they will widen their operation to examine other nearby spots that have been identified as possible hidden cities.

While the team is not yet suggesting that their discovery is, in fact, the fabled "White City," they do expect to at least learn something about the enigmatic civilization that once inhabited this remote corner of Central America.

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