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High-tech Indiana Jones team discovers the fabled lost city of Ciudad Blanca

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists have discovered what they believe could be Ciudad Blanca, a fabled lost city hidden deep within the jungles of Honduras. Using airborne lasers to scan the ground beneath the dense jungle canopy, scientists have found what appears to be an entire city filled with temple mounds, canals, and terraced hillsides, entirely lost to history - until now.

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS (Catholic Online) - Scientists skimming the treetops above the Honduran jungle in a laser-equipped aircraft have found what they say could be the remains of a legendary lost city.

Using a laser system known as "lidar" scientists were able to peer beneath the jungle canopy and create a map of the ground below. By flying back and forth over an ever-widening swath of jungle, the map grew and eventually the outline of what was once an ancient city began to appear.

Scientists say they have spotted temple mounds, canals, avenues, and terraced hillsides where crops once grew.

The city is unknown to modern times, but the conquistadores knew of it, even if they could not locate it. Hernan Cortez wrote of it to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, referring to it as "La Ciudad Blanca" meaning "The White City."

Pre-Columbian structures were commonly coated with limestone plaster, which turned them gleaming white, providing a bright contrast with the emerald-green jungles from which they emerged. To European observers, accustomed to seeing gray stone and wooden structures back home, the cities appeared to glitter inspiring legends about their wealth.

That wealth wasn't mythical either. Pre-Columbian monarchs and nobles amassed great treasures of gold, silver, jade, and turquoise. Plundering conquistadores eventually carted off most of that wealth to Europe where it was used to finance the wars of the Holy Roman Empire and other nations. Most of the gold and silver artifacts from these civilizations were destroyed, leaving behind as treasure only the legacy of the people, namely their art and architecture.

The people themselves were swiftly wiped out by disease and enslavement, or disappeared into the jungle in a bid to escape subjugation.

The swift disappearance of entire populations led to legends of abandoned cities with their treasures intact. La Ciudad Blanca was one such legendary city. Over the centuries, as more of the jungle was explored, scientists eventually concluded that most of the major populations centers had been rediscovered, and those that went undiscovered were likely the stuff of myth, produced by the wishful thinking of greedy European explorers - academic hubris.

Today, scientists know better as they are periodically surprised.  Scientists are using new tools to explore the jungle and are finding a great number of unknown sites. No longer do archaeologists traipse the jungle Indiana Jones style, hoping to stumble upon something amazing. Now, satellite data, aerial surveys, and occasionally the guidance of local people, brings archaeologists to something that has long passed into legend and folklore.

In La Ciudad Blanca, archaeologists do not expect to find tons of gold and silver simply lying about, despite the most fervent claims of the conquistadores. Instead, they hope as they excavate the site they will find more valuable treasure in the form of art and information about the ancient people who once inhabited the city.

For researchers, time is of the essence. Although they may be unaware of the sites, locals are often familiar with them and will loot the sites of any treasures they can find. In so doing they destroy ancient structures and plunder artifacts. This destroys the cultural legacy of the native people so researchers want to move quickly to study the site before treasure hunters and looters make fresh inroads.

For now, scientists are keeping mum about precisely where the city is located, only saying that it is hidden somewhere in the jungles of the Honduras. Scientists have released only a close-up detail of their maps which show the promise of structures long-hidden beneath the jungle canopy. They will not show the media any images of the surrounding area to prevent attracting looters to the city.

Soon, the intrepid archaeologists will find their leather jackets and whips, as they set off to explore the ruins firsthand. Until then, we must wait and wonder with fascination at what they will find when they get there.

The site is so large, it will likely take decades to excavate.

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