Hundreds of Intriguing Artifacts Unearthed at Ancient ‘White City’ Ruins in Honduras
Archaeologists have unearthed more than 200 intriguing artifacts, including elaborate sculptures and ritualistic relics, just 4 weeks into excavations at archaeological ruins in the jungle of Honduras, believed to be the legendary ‘White City’. The findings are helping to shed light on the mysterious civilization that once inhabited the region.
Two years ago, an aerial search of the dense jungle of Honduras fuelled by local legends of a lost ancient city, revealed miles of seemingly man-made features. Announcements quickly spread that archaeologists had found La Ciudad Blanca (“The White City”), otherwise known as “City of the Monkey God”. An initial ground expedition early last year dramatically revealed that aerial images did indeed show traces of a lost civilization, including extensive plazas, earthworks, mounds, an earthen pyramid, and dozens of finely carved artifacts belonging to a culture that is virtually unknown.
Last month, scientists finally begin exploring the ancient site and initial results are proving to be just as exciting as anticipated.
Hundreds of Artifacts Unearthed
The National Geographic reports that in the last four weeks, the archaeological team led by Chris Fisher of Colorado State University, dug up more than 200 artifacts including ornate sculptures of animals, ritual stone vessels decorated with animal heads and geometric patterns, and ceremonial metates, which are thought to have been a type of throne.
An example of a ceremonial metate. This one is from the Nicoya culture of Costa Rica, 300 – 700 AD. ( public domain )
“Some of the metate legs have puzzling markings on them. One set of cross-banded motifs, according to archaeologists who examined it, resemble a Maya “sky band,” similar to depictions of the night sky found under seated figures in sculptures at Chichen Itza in Mexico,” reports the National Geographic. “Crossed-banded motifs are often associated with gods and objects of power in the Maya world. The metates also display many puzzling pseudo-glyphs on them that have yet to be studied and deciphered.”
The discovery of metates is highly promising as Fisher reports that in other parts of Central America, burials of high-status individuals, including royals, have been found beneath buried metates.
Chris Fisher, the team’s chief archaeologist (center), Rodrigo Solinís-Casparius (left), Ranferi Juarez (background), and Anna Cohen (right) at the site of the cache in Honduras; several exposed “metates,” or seats of power, are in the foreground.
Researchers discovered that the artifacts had originally been placed together on a red clay floor, arranged around a central figure of importance – a sculpture of a vulture. Several of the vessels placed around the sculpture had a carving depicting a “strange humanoid figure with a triangular head, hollow eyes, and an open mouth on a withered-looking body,” according to National Geographic. The carving is believed to represent a “death figure”.
Stone vessel with a carving of a possible “death figure”
Closing of the City
The Archaeological team found evidence of the ritual breaking of objects and artifacts, which is a known tradition practiced by ancient people throughout the Americas. It is believed the ritual was carried out as part of a ceremonial closing of the city, at the time it was finally abandoned.
“In this (admittedly speculative) scenario, the last inhabitants of the city gathered their most precious, sacred objects and left them as a final offering to the gods as they departed,” reports National Geographic, “breaking them perhaps as a way to release their spirits.”
While the reason for the city’s abandonment will never be known with certainty, one hypothesis is that the inhabitants were plagued by diseases brought by the European invasion, which are known to have decimated up to 95% of the indigenous population.
Legends of a Lost City
La Ciudad Blanca, or The White City, 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.
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 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 ( Wikimedia Commons )
In 1952, explorer Tibor Sekelj searched for The White City on an expedition financed by the Ministry of Culture of Honduras, but returned empty handed. Investigations picked up pace in the 1990s following reports of the legend in popular media, and in 2012 the first significant discovery was made by aerial scanning.
Since then, Chris Fisher’s team has discovered an extensive complex made up of earthworks, plazas, pyramids, irrigation canals, reservoirs, mounds, and stone sculptures that have lain untouched since the city was abandoned centuries, perhaps even millennia ago. The civilization that inhabited the city remains virtually unknown.
There is no evidence that the ruins are the actual ‘White City’ of legend, as it is believed there were many powerful ancient cities that existed in the jungles of Honduras. The archaeological team is now calling these ruins the “City of the Jaguar” due to the presence of jaguar carvings on many of the artifacts.
Featured image: Newly discovered artifacts at ancient ruins in Honduras believed to be the legendary ‘White City’. Source: El Tiempo .