Archaeologists discover ‘City of the Monkey God’ in Honduras jungle

A team of archaeologists from the United States say they’ve uncovered the remains of two lost cities deep in the jungles of Honduras.

One of the two cities is believed to be the legendary “City of the Monkey God,” a mysterious ancient metropolis sometimes referred to as the “White City.” The settlement’s mystique has grown over the centuries as rumblings about white precipices peering through the top of the rainforest reverberated among academics and adventurers.

A place sometimes called the “white house” or “place of cacao” had long been mentioned in indigenous stories — a place where natives sought refuge from the invading Spanish conquistadors. It was often included in the myth of El Dorado. Now, researchers believe they’ve found it in a valley in the rain forests of La Mosquitia, first surveyed aerially in 2012by UTL Productions using LIDAR technology to get topographical data.

The cities belong to an ancient and yet unnamed civilization that archaeologists and historians know little about. Through the years, indigenous people told archaeologists looking for the White City that the mysterious civilization had worshiped a giant statue of a monkey.

Among the remains, scientists have uncovered the remnants of pyramids and plazas, as well as dozens of artifacts, including a religious statue of a half-human, half-jaguar spirit.

Archaeologists said the city’s site in the jungle is extremely remote and unexplored.

“Even the animals acted as if they’ve never seen people,” team leader Chris Fisher, a researcher at Colorado State University, told the Guardian. “Spider monkeys are all over place, and they’d follow us around and throw food at us and hoot and holler and do their thing.”

“To be treated not as a predator but as another primate in their space was for me the most amazing thing about this whole trip,” he said.

Fisher says the cities date between 1400 B.C. and 1000 B.C., and though they resemble Mayan cities, they did not belong to the Mayan civilization.

“This is clearly the most undisturbed rain forest in Central America,” the team’s ethnobotanist, Mark Plotkin, told National Geographic. “The importance of this place can’t be overestimated.”

Also found among the remains were “metates,” stone ceremonial seats, featuring carvings of snakes, vultures and other zoomorphic figures.

The cities’ locations aren’t being revealed, in order to protect them from looters. Archaeologists will continue excavating the sites safely — but quickly. The forests of Honduras are increasingly under threat from logging operations.


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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily