Deep in the Honduran jungle, in the La Mosquitia valley area, a team of archaeologists unearthed evidence of a lost city, including an effigy of a half-human, half-jaguar spirit, a plaza and a pyramid.
The expedition was launched after aerial light detection scanning — known as LIDAR — uncovered what appeared to be man-made structures below the rainforest. Once the exact location of the elusive site was confirmed, Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson assembled a group of experts to verify LiDAR’s aerial findings. They included archeologists from the U.S. and Honduras, a LiDAR engineer, an anthropologist and even British soldiers trained in jungle survival skills. Also in tow was an ethnobotanist as well as a writer and photographer from National Geographic who helped chronicle the find. The team set up base in a small town on the outskirts of the jungle and used the military helicopter at their disposal, to fly back and forth from location of the ancient city.
The tops of 52 artifacts were peeking from the earth. Many more evidently lie below ground, with possible burials. They include stone ceremonial seats (called metates) and finely carved vessels decorated with snakes, zoomorphic figures, and vultures. The most striking object emerging from the ground is the head of what Fisher speculated might be “a were-jaguar,” possibly depicting a shaman in a transformed, spirit state. Alternatively, the artifact might be related to ritualized ball games that were a feature of pre-Columbian life in Mesoamerica. “The figure seems to be wearing a helmet,” said Fisher. Team member Oscar Neil Cruz, head archaeologist at the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), believes the artifacts date to A.D. 1000 to 1400.
In 1928, aviator Charles Lindberg reported seeing “an amazing ancient metropolis” during a flight over Central America. A few years later, anthropologist, W.D. Strong, made an expedition to the same area and claimed to have found a “lost” city that was about five square miles long. Theodore Morde, an American adventurer, may have found the site during a 1940 expedition, but died without revealing the location. He described a city where a giant monkey deity was once worshipped and local tribes described myths of half-human, half-simian children. The expedition was seeking the site of the legendary “White City”, also known as the “City of the Monkey God”, a goal for Western explorers since the days of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.Who were these people? Archaeologists estimate that the city dates to between 1000 A.D. and 1400 A.D., and while the inhabitants could bear a resemblance to their neighbors—the Maya.
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