The White City

I read up on an article on the national geographic website about a new discovery in Honduras. For anyone who does not know what Honduras is, it is a very small country in Central America. It is known for its heavily populated forests. The country has dense jungles that go unexplored. Likewise, a finding like this one is highly unlikely; however, archaeologists are not stopped by anything when it comes to finding a new site. In the article, the motive to search for such a site was due to an allegation that was made by someone much earlier.

So here is how the story goes, in the early 1900s a man named Theodore Morde went on an exploration in the jungles in search of the so called “White City.” This city is supposedly a civilization that vanished. Of course we know that is not the case; however, something must have happened. This city is also called the “City of the Monkey God.” As Theordore Morde explored this alleged city, he came across thousands of artifacts that he brought back. One of the things he discovered was a giant statue of a Monkey God that was beneath the surface. Unfortunately, he did not want to give the location of the site; his intentions were to keep looters away from excavating it and destroying the natural context. Soon after, he ended up committing suicide, and the site went unfound for decades.

With that being said, some archaeologists, named Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson, decided that they wanted to find the site so they went to Honduras and used LIDAR to look for possible locations and other unnatural features. Surprisingly, they discovered a valley that they were skeptic of. Indeed, they had found an extraordinary site; The White City. Much of the features directed them to conclude it was a pre-Columbian civilization; some of the artifacts dated all the way back to 1000 to 1400 AD. While searching in the valley, they came across 52 artifacts that were visible just about the ground. One of the features was a pyramid like structure that had evidence of an offering at the base. This is very interesting, as we had just learned about the pyramids and diffusion not too long ago.

The interesting thing about this site is its “undisturbed condition.” This makes it that much more valuable. Since it is deep in the jungle, not many people or animals will be in contact with such a place. As for right now, the location is still kept a secret. Also the Honduran government is working on protecting it from being harmed from things such as deforestation. Hopefully they  can get enough funding to preserve the area, until the excavation can being.

This is the article:

3 thoughts on “The White City

  1. That is a very interesting discovery. I am writing my report about a recent discovery of the world’s oldest temple. Ancient places of worship always fascinated me because it seems that these people living such tough lives they must have needed religion more than modern man because they needed more hope. While they worked hard at basic survival they also felt the need to spend time and resources on worship. They worked hard for pure survival and nature had a big impact on their lives leaving their lives in the hand of chance so religion helped them maintain hope to continue on. Religion also gave order which is very important to the success of a group of people. Through religion they become united and work as a team.
    I also wonder if maybe that man who found the City of the Monkey God struggled with the enormity of his discovery without sharing it’s location and caused him to question his life. Imagine finding something so amazing but not being able to share it with anyone because you don’t know who to trust. I would be torn because I would feel selfish not sharing it but then again I would feel like I had to figure out the exact person to tell and hope they don’t misuse the information. It is very frustrating that people cannot be trusted to keep ancient sites safe from destruction. This has been a problem for thousands of years. I like the solution some governments take by closing the site and then creating a replica for the public to visit. This allows people to learn about these discoveries but keeps the site safe.

  2. The idea of the White City is fascinating to me, and I too wanted more information on it. It turns out many people didn’t even believe that the White City actually existed until the Lidar information came back. It was thought to just be a myth. I looked up several articles, and it is possible that the remains found are not actually just the White City, but many cities making up an unidentified civilization. This civilization is barely known, and doesn’t even have a name yet. A stark contrast to the nearby Maya. The ruins were found in an area of Honduras called La Mosquitia. Something that I found interesting is that there were earth works present in the ruins. After studying the Mississippians and all of their mounds, it makes me wonder if these people come from a common ancestor very far back in the past. I find it very sad that the area is in such danger as well, with illegal logging for cattle farming within twelve miles from the site. According to Virgilio Paredes Trapero, without protection from the government the site could disappear completely within eight years. The Honduran government wants to protect the site, but doesn’t have the money to be able to do so. They have since asked for international support in protecting the site. With so little known about pre-columbian society, this site holds massive implications for archaeologists. One of the more interesting objects found was a sculpture of a “were-jaguar” that may possible be a shaman, in a transformed spirit state. I hope archaologists are able to find out more information about the civilization, as I would be very interested to know more.

  3. I found your blog fascinating! It seems lie a real life archaeology movie – all you need is an evil villain (preferrably the newly billionaire son who is bitter that his father picked archaeology over being there for his childhood) that want to destroy the statue of the monkey god for putting an evil curse on Theodore Modre, the man who discovered it, which lead him to go crazy and make him kill himself (I promise I don’t write terrible screen play- but i might have seen too many Indian Jones movies/ read too many Clive Clusser adventure novels)! Which might actually have happened – if he kept the site a secret to preserve it, he might have gotten a little paranoid and that might have lead to his demise.

    I think that it is so cool that using the LIDAR lead Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson to the “White City.” I also think it’s pretty awesome that because of a “strangely placed valley” they ventured into the thick jungle of Honduras. That’s a lot of effort, especially when you are going off of a hunch. I would like to point out the strange thinking our original discover had. Theodore Modre took THOUSANDS of artifacts from the site and then didn’t tell anyone where the site was in order to keep looters. Really Theodore Morde? Don’t you know that archaeologists care about the Artifacts WITHIN the context. The reason this story reminds me of Indian Jones is because Theodore Modre acted just like Indian Jones would have. Found a secret city, take all the cool (and movable) things out of the city and then tell no one where the city is – in case he ever wanted to go back and take more. Theodore Modre, you are a LOOTER yourself. At least Elkins and Benenson told the Honduras government to hopefully have the area preserved, protected and properly excavated! It would be such a shame to loose such a valuable untouched gem to the Indian Jones’ of the world!

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