Locals in the region would speak of an undiscovered city, deep inside the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras. A city with white walls that they called "La Ciudad Blanca."
Since the 1920s, several attempts have been made to find this lost city. Then in 1940, Theodore Morde - an eccentric explorer, led an expedition into the dense forests of eastern Honduras with a colleague, Laurence Brown.
When Morde and Brown returned, they claimed to have discovered an ancient civilization that worshipped a Monkey God. In fact, local indigenous people had told them about a temple dedicated to the monkey god buried underground. What made it even more fascinating were legends that the ape had bred with humans to create half-human, half-monkey children!
Morde brought back thousands of artifacts as proof of his discovery. He passed away before he could lead another expedition.
The Recent Discovery
Archeologists from the U.S and Honduras led a joint expedition into La Mosquitia recently. The Mosquito Coast was once home to the Miskite kingdom, and is now inhabited by many local tribes. With dense tropical forests and swamps, the only access to this area by air and water. This is why the team had two British SAS officers trained in survival skills.
The expedition was launched after archeologists had proof of a hidden city, thanks to a technology known as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). We had written here about how LIDAR was used to uncover an ancient city in Asia. This sophisticated mapping technology uses a laser mounted on a plane to map the terrain. The light pulses from the LIDAR had revealed man-made structures along the river.
The team found the tops of 52 artifacts peeking out of the ground, including possible burial sites. The items include stone ceremonial seats and finely carved vessels decorated with snakes and vultures. The most fascinating find was the head of a "were-jaguar" which may have been used by a shaman (people who practice magic). The team has not disclosed the exact location of the ruins for fear of it being looted.
Preserving For The Future
It is well-known that the Maya lived in western Honduras, and Copan was a major city.
The Mayan civilization reached its peak between 750-800 AD, but somewhere in the 9th century, it started to decline. The once great city of Copan was abandoned and overrun by the jungle, but its people continued to live in the region. The people who lived in this newly discovered city were different and may have been the ancestors of tribes that live today.
Archeologists also believe that there wasn't any city called La Ciudad Blanca - inst,ead it may have referred to a collection of settlements. While more expeditions will continue in the region, the area is under threat from deforestation. Honduras is the largest exporter of beef and ranchers are clearing forests illegally for their cattle ranches.
Courtesy National Geographic