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Ancient 'Lost City' Discovered in Honduras

Mar 04, 2015 02:07 PM EST

An ancient "lost city," once home to a mysterious vanished civilization several centuries ago, was just discovered* deep in the jungles of Honduras.

A team led by archaeologists Chris Fisher and Stephen Leisz, from Colorado State University, set out in search for the fabled "City of the Monkey God," or "White City." Finding this once-thriving city has been a dream for Western explorers for more than a century, since tales of its gold and "monkey children" were first told.

The city is believed to be one of many lost in the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras. No one knows what became of the "vanished" civilization - whether they succumbed to genocide or disease, for instance - but they likely live on in their indigenous ancestors, and this recent works hopes to piece the puzzles together of the mystery.

"We're very excited to bring to life this lost culture," Fisher said in a statement, adding that the research "will significantly change our understanding of this critical archaeological region."

The discovery was reported Monday by National Geographic after the international research team, backed by the Honduran government, surveyed and mapped extensive plazas, earthworks, mounds, and an earthen pyramid. The artifacts, dating from 1000 AD to 1400 AD, belong to an ancient culture that thrived a thousand years ago and then mysteriously vanished.

They also found a "remarkable cache of stone sculptures" that hasn't been touched since the city was abandoned, and may have been used as an offering.

While the well-known Mayans thrived not far from the site, researchers know very little about this still-unnamed society.

"It shows that even now, well into the 21st century, there is so much to discover about our world," Fisher told The Telegraph. "The untouched nature of the site is unique and if preserved and properly studied can tell us much about these past people and provide critical data for modern conservation."

The objects were documented but left unexcavated. And to protect the site from looters, its location is not being revealed.

*[EDIT: The original version of this article mistakenly implied that this "lost city" was only recently discovered. In reality, archaeologists have been studying the region for years, especially in the last two decades, and it has been the subject of many scholarly works and previous research. What's more, local indigenous groups and long-time residents of the area have frequented the "lost city," and provided scientists with local knowledge of the site. This latest research merely adds more insight into this once thriving city.] 

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