Explorers That Found Ancient Lost City of the Monkey God Almost Lose Their Faces to Flesh-Eating Parasite

Explorers That Found Ancient Lost City of the Monkey God Almost Lose Their Faces to Flesh-Eating Parasite

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The group of explorers that discovered the remains of an ancient city in the jungle of Honduras while hunting for the legendary lost city of La Ciudad Blanca (‘White City’), otherwise known as City of the Monkey God, almost lost their faces to a flesh-eating parasite. Inhabitants of the ancient city had abandoned it in the 16th century after believing gods had cursed their city with disease.

Legends of a Lost City

La Ciudad Blanca is a legendary city that was said to be located in the virgin rainforest of Mosquitia in eastern Honduras. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés reported hearing "trustworthy" information about the ancient ruins, but never located them. In 1927, pilot Charles Lindbergh reported seeing monuments constructed from white stone while flying over eastern Honduras.

Ancient ruins have been found in the jungle of Honduras

Ancient ruins have been found in the jungle of Honduras (pictured). Credit: DAR

By the 1930s, there were rumors of a place in Honduras called the "City of the Monkey God", which was equated with Ciudad Blanca, and in 1939 adventurer Theodore Morde claimed to have found it and brought thousands of artifacts back to the United States to prove it. According to Morde, the indigenous people said a giant statue of a monkey god was buried there. He never revealed the precise location of his find as he feared the site would be looted, and he died before returning to the site for a proper excavation.

Artist Virgil Finlay's conceptional drawing of Theodore Moore's "Lost City of the Monkey God". Originally published in The American Weekly, September 22, 1940

Artist Virgil Finlay's conceptional drawing of Theodore Moore's "Lost City of the Monkey God". Originally published in The American Weekly, September 22, 1940 ( Public Domain )

Explorers Become Latest Victims of the ‘Wrath of the Monkey God’

Despite the creepy legends that the area is “cursed,” American author Douglas Preston and a group of explorers, were not intimidated by the rumors. The group, consisted of American and Honduran explorers and archeologists, launched their adventure, combing the rainforests of Honduras and Nicaragua in search of the lost city. During the process, they had to deal with poisonous snakes and crawl through thick foliage to find it, but shortly discovering the ruins in 2015, they contracted an extremely dangerous, life-threatening disease: leishmaniasis.

Mucosal leishmaniasis on woman in Shinkay, Afghanistan.

Mucosal leishmaniasis on woman in Shinkay, Afghanistan. Photographer: Maj. Jamie Blow ( AFPMB / flickr )

Preston described the horrific symptoms of leishmaniasis with graphic details as National Post reports, “The parasite migrates to the mucous membranes of your mouth and your nose and basically eats them away. Your nose falls off, your lips fall off, and eventually your face becomes a gigantic, open sore.”  But despite falling ill, Preston said he still doesn't believe in curses and doesn't regret the experience, “I would never trade that experience for anything. It was so powerful,” he told CBS News .

More Secrets “Hide” Within the White City’s Ruins According to Preston

Within the city’s ruins, the group of the adventurous and brave explorers found a lot of artifacts – dating back to 1000 and 1500 AD – carved from stone and clay, including trays and a throne. Preston appears to be quite confident that there are more secrets hiding within the White City’s ruins, but after almost losing his face and life, he’s not in a hurry to go back and continue the excavation, “It’s just too dangerous,” he said after his doctors informed him that if untreated, parts of his face would “fall off,” becoming an open sore. Additionally, during the following few months, more than half of the group’s explores started displaying early symptoms of the disease as well and had to undergo grueling treatment, as CBS reports. A book about the group's unbelievable escapade, written by Preston and titled “ The Lost City of the Monkey God ” was published on January 3 rd, while a documentary about the trip is also in production.

Top image: A “were-jaguar” effigy, likely representing a combination of a human and spirit animal, is part of a still-buried ceremonial seat, discovered in a cache in ruins deep in the Honduran jungle. Credit: Dave Yoder /  National Geographic .

By Theodoros Karasavvas​


I am an expat living in Nicaragua, and due to my own experiences in the rainforests, I am acutely aware of just how difficult it is to explore these areas. Unless you have personally experienced the tropical  rainforests of the Americas, it is hard to actually understand the difficulties and dangers associated with expeditions of ths type.

There is an assortment of poisonous snakes and insects which have highly toxic venoms which can lead to excruciating pain, and even death if not treated quickly and correctly. Then there are the tropical diseases which are present in rainforest areas, of which Leishmaniasis is one. A parasitic infection transmitted through the bites of infected sand fleas, Leshmaniasis poses a serious health risk, and is endemic in Nicaragua.

Undoubtedly, there are many undiscovered remnants of ancient cultures to be discovered in tropical America, some of which may reveal secrets that could change the history of the region as we know it. 

However, along with great discoveries, there is sometimes great risk, and this is precisely why the true adventurers are willing to risk it all in their quest for knowledge. If it were not for these courageous men and women, many, if not most of our great archaeological discoveries would have never been made.

To the discoverers of the City of the Monkey God, my hat is off to you. Bravo!

This is how real science is done.



R. Lee Bowers

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