Ancient City, Once Home To A Long-Lost Civilization, Found In Honduras Rainforest

03/04/2015 03:07 am ET | Updated Mar 04, 2015

A team of archaeologists were searching for the fabled “White City,” also known as the “City of the Monkey God,” in the Honduras jungle. But during the course of their hunt, they say they may have stumbled upon something far more remarkable: not merely a long-lost city, but an entire, unidentified civilization.

The story of this discovery begins in 2012 when an aerial survey of a remote valley in La Mosquitia, Honduras, revealed evidence of the ruins of a pre-Columbian city. Some experts thought the ruins might be part of the legendary “White City.”

"For a hundred years, explorers and prospectors told tales of the white ramparts of a lost city glimpsed above the jungle foliage. Indigenous stories speak of a 'white house' or a 'place of cacao' where Indians took refuge from Spanish conquistadores—a mystical, Eden-like paradise from which no one ever returned."

The site of the “White City” has never been confirmed.

lost city

Trees are still thick within a pocket of jungle in the Mosquitia that is home to the ruins of an ancient civilization.

With the support of the Honduran government, the team recently embarked on an expedition to the surveyed area to discover firsthand whether or not the “White City” had actually been located. What they found astounded them.

National Geographic, which sent a reporter and photographer along for the expedition, reports that the team did indeed find an ancient and untouched city. The archaeologists surveyed “extensive plazas, earthworks, mounds and an earthen pyramid” as well as “a remarkable cache” of more than 50 stone sculptures.

Christopher Fisher, an archaeologist on the team, told the magazine that the unspoiled condition of the site was “incredibly rare.”

The site is estimated to date back to 1,000 to 1,400 A.D.

lost city

A cache of more than 50 artifacts, found partly exposed, lie in a secret location in the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras.

While this discovery has been celebrated as the long-anticipated unearthing of the storied "White City," archaeologists say that they no longer believe there's just one “lost city” in Mosquitia. Instead, the team says the area may be home to many "lost cities" -- places that were once inhabited by an entire, now-lost civilization.

This culture likely thrived a millennia ago, and then disappeared, the archaeologists say.

It's a culture that's almost unknown. It does not even have a name.

Fisher told The Huffington Post in an email this week that the discovery of the lost city has enormous implications for the understanding of the region and its history.

"The documentation of the site and associated features is very significant for Honduras and broader pre-Columbian societies in Latin America," he said.

Fisher added that much more research needs to be conducted to find out more about this lost civilization. He said the team hopes to soon "begin a long-term program of archaeological and ecological research" in the Mosquitia area.

As for what might have caused this civilization to disappear, Fisher offered one possible explanation: European-introduced disease.

“Old World disease decimated native populations in the Americas starting with the fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan,” Fisher told HuffPost. “These same diseases then raced person to person throughout the Americas with an incredible mortality rate. Like every other ancient culture in the Americas the impact of these events would have had devastating consequences for the ancient peoples of the Mosquitia.”

Fisher stressed, however, that there could be many other explanations for the culture’s demise. Societal collapse, environmental triggers or conflict, for instance, may have played a role.

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