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The Lost City Of Ciudad Blanca

The Lost City Of Ciudad Blanca 11

It is time to open the gates of a hidden, long forgotten empire.

Located in the remote, impenetrable and incompletely mapped rainforest of  the Mosquito Coast, the legendary city of Ciudad Blanca, or White City has finally been found!

The White City has often been linked to Central American mythology.  Some think it was the birthplace of the White City god Quetzalcoatl.

Legend says the city is full of gold.

Over the years visitors to the jungle reported sightings of a large city lost in the rainforest, but these were nothing but rumors, not until now…

The ancient city was first recorded by Hernan Cortes who, in 1526, less than five years after vanquishing  the Aztecs, came to the colonial town of Trujillo, on the north coast of Honduras, to look for the fabled town of Hueitapalan,  literally, Old Land of Red Earth. Cortes search for this Central American El Dorado marks the beginning of the Ciudad Blanca legend,  as well as the first of many failed attempts to find this lost city.

With the time, it was slowly abandoned and forgotten.

Now a team from the University of Houston and the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) has  mapped a remote region of Honduras that may contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca.Archaeologists think they have discovered ruins of what may be the lost city of Ciudad Blanca.An initial analysis of the LiDAR survey has identified ruins that could be those of Ciudad Blanca or other long-hidden sites.

The information provides archaeologists with the precise locations of features within fractions of meters for further study. 

This is one of the first times this technique, called light detection and ranging (LiDAR), has been used to map ancient ruins.

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Ciudad Blanca. Image credit: LaPrensa
LiDAR can be of great scientific use as the technology can be applied in other areas.

Beyond archaeology, LiDAR researchers at the National Science Foundation are looking to develop the technology for mapping disasters   using drones, for military spying and for tracking erosion under rivers and shallow parts of the ocean.

UTL project leader Steve Elkins has been fascinated with the Mosquitia rainforest since his first visit there nearly 20 years ago, but he  has been frustrated by the inability of satellite imagery to see under the extremely thick canopy.

He previously analyzed satellite imagery of the Mosquitia forest, looking for signs of the city.

Elkins contacted researchers at UH, NCALM and Geosensing Systems Engineering (GSE) Graduate Research Program to overcome this obstacle.

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A field team from the University of Houston and the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Center for Airborne  Laser Mapping (NCALM) has mapped a remote region of Honduras that may contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca. (Credit: DAR)
UH professors Ramesh L. Shrestha and William E. Carter have been working with refining and applying airborne LiDAR to unveil the surface of  Earth, primarily for earth scientists researching surface processes, for more than a decade.

As LiDAR improved, Elkins gathered private investors to pay for the National Science Foundation’s laser mapping center to analyze three  areas he thought were especially promising. Elkins had originally approached the Honduran government with his idea, but government officials  said they knew the forest well and there wasn’t anything there.

Over several days, NSF engineers flew over about 60 square miles (160 square kilometers) of forest for Elkins in their dual-engine Cessna planes.  At the end of every day, they sent the data to Carter, who was working out of West Virginia. Carter found the first signs of what appeared to  be human-made structures within five minutes of analyzing the data, he said

“I’m the only person right now on the planet that knows that there’s these ruins,” Carter recalled thinking when he saw what he said were  straight lines and right angles that don’t normally appear in nature. “My wife walked in and looked over my shoulder and she was the second person to know.”

Carter sent his analysis back to the archaeologists in Honduras, who agreed the structures were man-made. Now, Elkins, along with a team of  Honduran scientists, will visit the structures in person and determine what they are and how old they are. The LiDAR coordinates will help them  pinpoint exactly where to look in the thick jungle.

Archeologist Christopher Fisher of Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, who has also taken part in the Honduras project and is one of the few archeologists  to have extensively studied lidar images from the Honduras flights.

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Fisher and his Colorado State colleague Stephen Leisz also use lidar to find previously unrecognized ancient human-made structures at Angamuco, a site in Mexico.

“We use lidar to pinpoint where human structures are by looking for linear shapes and rectangles,” Leisz said. “Nature doesn’t work in straight lines.”

Many have tried to locate the legendary city of Ciudad Blanca. ABC TV American Sportsman video of the quest for Ciudad Blanca, a legendary lost city buried in the jungles of Honduras, Central America. 

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The Honduran Mosquitia’s dense canopy of tree tops rising some 50 meters (164 feet) above the forest floor has long concealed structures on the ground.  Scientists can now detect those structures from aircraft using light-detection-and-ranging (lidar) — a laser-based technology. (Credit: UTL Productions, LLC)

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Partially removing the lidar measurements corresponding to the tree canopy above a site in the Honduran rain forest reveals structures on the  ground that make up a portion of a much larger complex. (Credit: UTL Scientific, LLC)

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A complex of mounds and, possibly, ancient building foundations becomes visible (bottom image) when laser reflections from the tree canopy (green in top image)  are filtered out of the lidar data from a site in the Mosquitia region of Honduras. (Credit: UTL Scientific, LLC)

Elkins and his colleagues have unveiled images from the Honduras sites that have not previously been made public.

“But we can’t show the overall place because we’d like to protect the site” from treasure hunters and looters, he said.

A crucial next step, he added, will come later this year when archeologists plan to explore the features seen from the air on the ground,  to find out what’s really there.

The discovery of the lost city of  Ciudad Blanca could be the most important archeological discovery of the 21st century.


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