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“The El Dorado Machine”, How Lidar uncovered the lost city of “La Ciudad Blanca”

08 May

temp9La Ciudad Blanca, or “The White City”, (also Xucutaco in nahuatl and Hueitapalan in mayan), is a legendary lost city in the Mosquitia region of Honduras. The city was originally sought by the conquistador Hernando Cortes for the rumors it held vast quantities of gold. It was also the supposed birthplace of the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. The source of the legend is unclear; some claim it originates in the time of the Spanish Conquista while others claim to originate from the indigenous Pech and Tawahka peoples.

Over the years a mix of treasure hunting and scientific expeditions have yielded findings that have fueled the legend of the lost city.

One of the first documented archeological explorations of the region was performed in 1933 by archeologist William Duncan Strong for the Smithsonian Institution. The 1933 expedition included areas in the Bay Island Department of Honduras as well as areas in the Mosquitia region of Honduras and Nicaragua. In his field journal we recorded the existence of archeological mounds, among many the Wankibila or Guanquivila mounds on the banks of the Rio Patuca and the Floresta Mounds on the banks of the Rio Conquirre.

For centuries, explorers tried to find la Ciudad Blanca, a fabled city in the rain forests of Central America. Dense jungle impeded efforts to uncover it. On Talk of the nation, Douglas Preston told the story of a team who used light detection technology (lindar) to survey the iconic ruins from the air.

temp9The Latest expedition took a 21st Century Approach and seems to have been successful in finding the lost city, “La Ciudad Blanca”. Using a simple single engine airplane equipped with a modern laser called a Lindar; Douglas Preston and his team scanned the canopy of the Honduraian rain-forest.You’ll be amazed at what they’ve found. Listen to the “Talk of the Nation” video above for more information.

**UPADTE 05-08-2013**

The rain forests of Mosquitia, which span more than thirty-two thousand square miles of Honduras and Nicaragua, are among the densest and most inhospitable in the world. “It’s mountainous,” Chris Begley, an archeologist and expert on Honduras, told me recently. “There’s white water. There are jumping vipers, coral snakes, fer-de-lance, stinging plants, and biting insects. And then there are the illnesses—malaria, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, Chagas’.” Nevertheless, for nearly a century, archeologists and adventurers have plunged into the region, in search of the ruins of an ancient city, built of white stone, called la Ciudad Blanca, the White City.

Rumors of the site’s existence date back at least to 1526, when, in a letter to the Spanish emperor Charles V, the conquistador Hernán Cortés reported hearing “reliable” information about a province in the interior of Honduras that “will exceed Mexico in riches, and equal it in the largeness of its towns and villages.” The claim was not an impossible one; the New World encountered by Europeans had wealthy cities and evidence of former splendor. In 1839, John Lloyd Stephens, an American diplomat and amateur archeologist, went in search of a group of ruins in the jungles of western Honduras—and found the stupendous remains of the Maya city of Copán, which he bought from a local landowner for fifty dollars. Stephens explored scores of other iconic ruins in Central America, which he described in a lavishly illustrated, best-selling book; serious archeology soon followed. Researchers have since determined that, beginning around 250 B.C., much of Mesoamerica south of Mexico had been dominated by the Maya civilization, which held sway until its mysterious collapse, in the tenth century.

But the grand Mesoamerican cultures, which stretched from Mexico southward, seemed to end in Honduras. The regions east and south of Copán were inhabited by peoples whom early scholars considered more “primitive” and less interesting, and the jungles were so dense, and the conditions so dangerous, that little exploration was done. Nonetheless, rumors persisted of lost cities—perhaps Maya, perhaps not—hidden in rugged Mosquitia. By the twentieth century, these legends had coalesced into a single site, la Ciudad Blanca, sometimes referred to as the Lost City of the Monkey God. . . .

Sources: The New Yorker, Wikipedia.com and NPR.org
Compiled By: Josh Martin
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