Ah lost cities hidden deep in the jungles….the stuff of mystery, adventure, and movies! And once in awhile such legendary lost cities are actually discovered and, thus, are revealed as REAL. And such is the case now with La Ciudad Blanca, “The White City.”
The story begins back when Hernan Cortez the famous Spanish Conquistador who conquered Mexico, et al, reported hearing about a city of great wealth in the region of what is now Honduras, however, Cortez never was able to locate the city. Then in 1927 the famous Charles Lindbergh was flying over eastern Honduras when he reported seeing a “white city” in the jungles below. Also in 1927 ethnographer Eduard Conzemius reported that the Paya Indians in Honduras had told him of a white city that had been found about 25 years prior located between the Paulaya and Plantain Rivers by someone who was in the area looking for rubber trees and who ended up getting lost in the jungle. According to these reports the city was called the “White City” because its ruins were all built out of cut white stone.
Then in the 1930s rumors began circulating about a place known as the “City of the Monkey God” in Honduras. In 1939 adventurer and explorer Theodore Morde went to the area and reportedly found it! Problem was Morde never revealed the location to anyone else and he died before returning to the area to conduct further explorations. In 1952 explorer Tibor Sekelj searched for the legendary White City leading a small expedition into the Honduran jungles and his venture was financed by the Honduran Ministry of Culture.
In the 1990s interest in the legendary city peaked and several expeditions searched for it and the media covered many of them but nothing was found. In 2009 author Christopher Stewart attempted to retrace the steps of Morde along with archaeologist Christopher Begley. Stewart chronicled his exploration in a book he wrote entitled “Jungleland” which he published in 2013. Documentary film maker Steve Elkins conducted some remote sensing exploration using LIDAR in 2012 and he along with the Honduran government claimed the legendary city had once again been found. However, several archaeologists called Elkins claim nothing but “hype.” In 2013 additional LIDAR imaging was conducted and analyses showed large architectural structures under the jungle canopy.
Over 200 sites have been discovered and documented in the Mosquitia region of Honduras over the past century with some being discovered by amateur archaeologists and others by professionals. Most of the sites date between 800–1250 AD. However, only a handful have actually been explored and mapped. The Legend of Ciudad Blanca is a famous folktale in Honduras and the legendary city has been the focus of several movies, books, articles, and television programs. The city was said to have white stone pathways along with white limestone buildings and walls. It was claimed that the city possessed great wealth. Local Indians claimed the city could not be entered into by anyone and accounts of the fabled city may have given rise to allusions of El Dorado.
I’ve mentioned Theodore Morde earlier but wish to expand on his explorations a bit more. He was not only an American explorer and adventure but he was also an American spy. In 1940 he was scheduled to undertake a third expedition to the region where the fabled city was said to exist. Morde and his colleague Laurence Brown conducted this exploration. They claimed they had found ancient razor blades and the city was located in an almost inaccessible area between the Paulaya and Plantano Rivers. Morde and Brown said they were told the fabled city was once the capital of an agricultural peoples known as the Chorotega.
Morde said that his Paya Indian guides had told him that the city had a great white stone temple with a large staircase that lead up to a statue of a giant “Monkey God.” Morde believed this monkey god was the equivalent of the Hindu monkey-like god named Hanuman. He was further told that the temple had a long staired approach lined with effigies of monkeys. The heart of the temple was the statue of the monkey god himself mounted upon a high stone dais. The steps to the dais were said to have been flanked by immense balustrades and at the beginning of one was the colossal stone image of a frog while the other was flanked by a colossal stone image of a crocodile.
According to Morde his Paya Indian guides told him told him the Chorotegas once inhabited the city “a thousand or more years ago.” The Chorotegas were thought to have come from Cholula in Mangue. Cholula is an ancient Aztec city in central Mexico near Puebla. It has a great Aztec pyramid which is the largest ancient structure in the Americas and by volume is the largest pyramid in the world! Cholula was once thought to have been built by the Toltec but most scholars now believe it was built by the Aztec. When Cortez arrived the city was thriving and as it ended up Cortez and his soldiers carried out a great massacre in Cholula during the conquest of Mexico.
Morde and Brown returned with thousands of artifacts including flutes, blades, stone statuary, and stone utensils. They also reported having found evidence of gold, silver, platinum, and oil.
Of interest also is that the Playa Indians told Morde of a story involving how a monkey had stolen three women and bred with them giving birth to half-monkey and half-human children. Morde said the native name for the monkey was Urus which translates into “sons of the hairy men.” He said he was told that their fathers or forefathers were the Ulaks who were half men and half spirits who lived on the ground walking upright (bipedal) and had the appearance of great hairy ape-men! SOUND SIMILAR TO DESCRIPTIONS OF BIGFOOT ANYONE? Similar tales were also told to other researchers in the coming years including anthropologist James Taggart.
Morde had wanted to return to Honduras to conduct further explorations in 1941 but he didn’t and in 1954 he died of an alleged “suicide” after being unsuccessful in securing funds for the return. He had not revealed the location of the fabled city.
Coming into our present time National Geographic is reporting that the City of the Monkey God has indeed been found! They say archaeologists have now indeed found mounds, ruins, earthworks, and an earthen pyramid belonging to a mysterious culture that is virtually unknown.
A team led by Colorado State University archaeologist Christopher Fisher has completed a ground survey of the site identified in aerial scanning and they have found the fabled complex. Its ruins and artifacts appear untouched since the city was abandoned centuries or even millennia ago. NatGeo reports that the most striking artifact found is an object emerging from the ground that Fisher believes is the stone head of a were-jaguar. It is being suggested the artifacts date from 1000–1400 AD. It is further believed the ruins do not constitute one city but several.
Fisher and his team conducted a ground exploration based on aerial views and they’ve found the City of the Monkey God, Ciudad Blanca, the White Stone City.
I’m sure there will be several investigations of this site in the near future and hopefully we will uncover who the people were who really built it and what it was. And the white stone colossal Monkey God? Perhaps it will be found as well.