Archaeologists believe they have found the fabled “White City” – the “City of the Monkey God.”
The city was built in Honduras by a vanished culture so little studied that archaeologists have not named the ancient civilization.
The ruins were first identified in May 2012 during an aerial survey of La Mosquitia, a treacherous region that contains some of the last scientifically unexplored places on Earth, reported National Geographic.
Researchers from Colorado State University surveyed earthworks, plazas, and a pyramid that thrived between 1000 C.E. and 1400 C.E.
Archaeologists found pristine, unlooted ruins and artifacts — which they said was “incredibly rare” — including stone ceremonials seats and vessels carved with snakes, animal-human hybrids, and vultures.
They also found the head of a “were-jaguar” that may depict a shaman in a spirit shape, or the artifact could be related to ritualized ball games common throughout the region before Europeans arrived.
“The undisturbed context is unique,” said Christopher Fisher, an archaeologist who explored the site. “This is a powerful ritual display, to take wealth objects like this out of circulation.”
Explorers and prospectors have for decades passed on indigenous legends about a “place of cacao” where Native Americans hid from Spanish conquistadores.
Previous teams have claimed they found the legendary city, and some archaeologists doubt the latest discovery is indeed the “White City,” reported The Christian Science Monitor.
“Many archeologists believe that The ‘White City,’ by its very nature, must never be found,” said Shanti Morell-Hart, an assistant professor at McMaster University in Canada. “It’s more of a legend that covers a region of many cities that were considered ‘Lost Cities,’ that depopulated due to the epidemics that swept through when the Europeans arrived, many of them large.”
Many new sites have been discovered or rediscovered in recent years due to changing politics that have opened the region to exploration and many technological advances that allow archaeologists to locate ruins.
“We have entered a more sophisticated age of exploration,” said Ben Thomas, of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Even so, Thomas said, archaeologists have probably found only about 40 percent of what’s left to discover.