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Home JackpineRadical Rooms JPR Reading Room Seeking the long-lost 'City of the Monkey God' in dense Honduras jungle

  • Judi Lynn (7965 posts)
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    Seeking the long-lost 'City of the Monkey God' in dense Honduras jungle

    PRI’s The World

    January 04, 2017 · 3:00 PM EST

    By David Leveille



    The “kitchen” area of the expedition’s camp deep in the Mosquitia jungle, 2015. The area was so remote, the animals apparently had never seen people before and wandered about, unafraid.
    Credit: David Yoder


    When archaeologists ventured into a thick Honduran rainforest in 2015, they were searching in an unexplored valley for the remnants of a long-lost city. Legend had it that an ancient metropolis was buried under centuries worth of jungle growth.

    Deep in the forest, with the help of new technologies, scientists discovered the untouched ruins of a vanished culture.

    “Usually an archaeological discovery takes a long time. There’s a lot of digging, you sit around doing nothing,” says Douglas Preston, who went along on the expedition. “In this case, they flew over the valley with this million-dollar LIDAR machine in the plane. In three days they mapped the valley; the next day they had an image of the ground with the trees removed, and the reaction of the scientists was something I’d never seen before.”

    . . .

    The archaeologists Preston followed had the advantage of detailed survey maps to guide them to precise locations. Three years earlier, scientists had deployed advanced LIDAR (Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging) technology to peer through the rainforest canopy to reveal a sprawling ancient metropolis.




    PADemD, HeartoftheMidwest, Jan Boehmermann like this

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  • Jan Boehmermann (4453 posts)
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    1. I heard that on PRI the other day. Fascinating stuff!

    Thanks for the link.

    I found Preston’s comment about “Conquest by Pathogens” very interesting.

  • SageBlue (199 posts)
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    2. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

    write some fun light reads.  I get their teasers.

    To my excellent readers,

    Some of you may have heard about the expedition I participated in, which found a lost city in an unexplored valley in the Honduran jungle. I wrote about the discovery (and its tragic aftermath) in National Geographic Magazine and the New Yorker.

    Since many have have asked to see photographs of the expedition, I thought it might make an interesting newsletter if I shared a few with you.

    My book is entitled The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story. I think it may be one of the best books I’ve ever written. It was certainly the greatest adventure of my life.

    It is incredible to think that an entire prehistoric city, several square miles in extent, could still be found in the 21st century, but this is exactly what happened. Venturing into a raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness, we faced torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn’t until we returned that tragedy struck: we learned that most of us had contracted in the ruins a horrifying and incurable disease. The Lost City of the Monkey God is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century.

    So enjoy these photographs, with my compliments!

    Warm regards,
    Doug Preston

    P.S. If you’d like to get an autographed, first-edition hardcover copy of The Lost City of the Monkey God you can order it here. Each copy will come with a photograph of me on the expedition into the city. A free shipping option is available if you buy two or more books. The book will be published on January 3 and the signed copies will arrive soon thereafter.
    The valley known only as Target One, seen from the air. This is one of the last scientifically unexplored areas on earth, a gentle landscape watered by two rivers, surrounded by steep, jungle-covered mountains. The area was long rumored to contain a legendary lost city, variously called the White City or Lost City of the Monkey God. Photo by Dave Yoder/National Geographic Magazine.
    The jungle landing zone for the helicopter that carried the expedition into the T1 valley, a veritable lost world. Photo by Lucian Read/UTL,LLC/Benenson Productions
    My hammock, strung between two trees in our jungle campsite. The first night I had a close call with a massive, and deadly, fer-de-lance snake. Photo by Douglas Preston.

    The fer-de-lance that entered camp the first night. One of the British soldiers on the expedition wrestled it to the ground and decapitated it, as it fought madly, spraying venom everywhere. Its fangs were more than an inch long. Photo by Douglas Preston.

    We are actually in a central plaza of the lost city itself. The chief archaeologist, Chris Fisher, is in the white cowboy hat mapping the plaza with a GPS unit. We are surrounded by earthworks, mounds, altar stones, foundations, and a pyramid–but as you can see almost nothing is visible. This is some of the thickest jungle in the world. Photo by Douglas Preston.

    One the second day, at the base of an earthen pyramid, we stumbled on a stupendous cache of stone sculptures with just the tops peeking out of the ground. This was the first thing I saw: a jaguar head attached to something buried. I took this photograph literally seconds after the discovery, as the team gathered around exclaiming in excitement. Excavations so far have uncovered over 500 priceless artifacts in this one small area, including stone thrones, jars decorated with vultures and snakes, and sculptures of half-animal, half-human beings. This great and mysterious civilization, living along the Maya frontier, adopted aspects of Maya culture but is so little studied that it does not even have a name. Photo by Douglas Preston.
    A group of us explored the unknown river that ran past the ruins. I’m looking up at spider monkeys in a tree , hanging by their tails and furiously shaking branches at us, protesting our intrusion into their domain. The valley was so wild, the animals appeared never to have seen people before. Jaguars prowled about our tents at night and other animals wandered into camp, unafraid. Photo by Bill Benenson.
    This is the same jaguar seen mostly buried in the photo above, after it was excavated and cleaned. It was probably a throne for a shaman, who, seated on it after taking hallucinogenic drugs, sought to tap into the power of the jaguar. Photo by Dave Yoder/National Geographic Magazine.

    The first square opened in the excavation of the cache of sculptures. The artifacts were packed closely together. You can see two large stone offering jars and various broken stone seats. The cache posed the greatest mystery of the lost city: why did the inhabitants leave all these sculptures here, in one place? The excavation provided an answer that was both tragic and chilling. Photo by Douglas Preston.
    The stairway up to the lost city. When we first hacked our way through here, you couldn’t see five feet in any direction, the vegetation was so thick. Photo by Douglas Preston.