Legendary Honduran lost city discovered by air survey

Honduran Ministerio de Interior y Población photo Steve Helkins describes the find

The mystery is not gone from Central America.

Honduran authorities said Tuesday that a high tech laser survey disclosed a lost city deep in the eastern jungles.

This is believed to be the legendary Ciudad Blanca or Ciudad Perdida.  The location is in the  Mosquitia or Moskitia zone in the eastern part of the country.

The announcement came from Áfrico Madrid, minister of Interior y Población. There has been no on-the-ground searches of the site, but the ruins, if they are pre-Columbian, could be Mayan or from an earlier population.

The air search device is called Lidar for Light Detection and Ranging. Honduras spent $1.5 million for the project.

Frederick Catherwood sketch Maybe the new lost city will hold finds such as the famous Stela D from Copan that was sketched in the middle of the 19th century.

Many of the famous Mayan cites, like Copan, are in the western part of the county not far from Guatemala. The Moskitia has been called the Central American Amazon because of its jungles and lack of modern conveniences. The area runs south and continues into Nicaragua.

Steve Helkins, a U.S. archaeologist, is involved in the project. He gave a briefing Monday.

The popular impression is that great archaeological discoveries are things of the past in Central America. Long gone are the days when John Lloyd Stephens and draftsman Frederick Catherwood could wander through the jungle and discover and catalogue new sites. That was in the middle of the 19th century. Now luxury hotels operate in sight of many ignored Mayan ruins on the Mexican Riviera.

In Cholula, México, tantalizing worked stone walls stick out from hillsides being used as trash dumps. The general public has been cautioned to stay away and leave excavation work to the experts.

The sentiment against so-called pot hunters works both ways. Archaeological sites are preserved, but the paid experts have little time for general surveys. Their interests are narrow.

Amateur archaeologists have made great discoveries, including that of the ancient city of Troy. Many of the holdings of the Museo de Jade in San José come from private researchers.

There probably are many great archaeological sites awaiting discovery, even in Costa Rica, but the public generally is cautioned against seeking them out. Costa Rican law weights against private searches, not to mention the bugs, snakes and other surprises lurking in a place like the Moskitia.

Costa Rica has had its share of air surveys for archaeology. Long-hidden native foot trails were made known by NASA overflights in 1984. They were estimated to be as old as 2,500 years. But the native populations left no stone monuments or lost cities.

Tourists and even residents can share in the excitement of discovery by going to the
much-underrated Monumento Nacional Guayabo near Cartago. There is a lost city visitors can drive to and avoid the bugs and snakes. The impressive
drainage systems and stone works are open to the public, but there are many acres that have not been excavated. The problem boils down to money.

That also is true for educating the next generation of those who would be Indiana Jones.

A fund drive to fix up a mobile museum centered on Guayabo has fallen short.

Bob Oldham, executive director of the Fundacion Tayutic, said that only 10 percent of the needed $10,000 has been collected. However, he promised the project would continue. The idea is to have a bus filled with artifacts and interactive presentations about the past to bring to school children.

Oldham, a volunteer, has had museum experience. However, the fund drive ended at midnight. The results are HERE!

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