A Fabled Lost City Might Be Hiding Under This Remote Honduras Jungle

New pictures claim to show the possible architectural remains of Ciudad Blanca, a mythical “White City” rumored to be buried somewhere deep in the forests of eastern Honduras.

The 3-D maps are a continuation of a project that made headlines last year when researchers used a special aerial light radar to survey Honduras’ remote Mosquita region, believed to contain the legendary lost city.

The newly-released, computer-generated images provide more detail of what might lie beneath a nearly impenetrable jungle teeming with snakes, mosquitoes, and other lethal creatures. That could be “cities, villages, roads, canals, ceremonial sites, terraced agricultural land, and more,” according to a statement from the American Geophysical Union.

The legend of Ciudad Blanca

Ciudad Blanca may never have existed at all.

The sprawling ancient city is a “20th century invention,” says Rosemary Joyce, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The legend was started in the 1920s when Hondurans flying over the forest saw a set of features that they thought looked like gleaming white buildings, Joyce explained.

The pilots tried to interpret what they saw using early Spanish sources. At some point, the site was linked to a letter written in 1526 by Spanish explorer Hernan Cortés to Charles I of Spain, where the adventurer spoke of “very large and wealthy provinces with wealthy lords.”

The hondurans believed the white structures they saw were once part of the large, wealthy province that Cortés described. As a result, most reports today wrongly attribute Cortés with “discovering” the potentially made-up city.

In fact, if you were to fly over Honduras now, you would probably see the stone monuments from early 20th century observations. But researchers continue to search for Ciudad Blanca, hung up on modern myth.

A new way of mapping 

To make the 3-D maps, researchers used LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, a mapping technology that uses a plane to shoot billions of laser beams down into thick forests. The lasers can cut through dense tree cover to get elevation models of geographic features underneath.

The digital images may show sunken or raised regions of different shapes, which researchers interpret as possible architectural remains of an ancient city.

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June 2017
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