Science

Lost City Of Gold Found In Honduras?

By James Maynard , May 16, 2013 10:53 AM EDT

The Lost City of Gold, Ciudad Blanca, may have been discovered in the Mosquitia region of Honduras. The discovery of the ruins, should it turn out to be the ancient Lost City of Gold, would put to end a mystery that is now nearly 500 years old.

The name Ciudad Blanca means White City. Tales of the ancient city may have been told by the conquistador Cortez to King Charles V in a letter written in 1526. His stories told of a large, prosperous city filled with gold adornments. Aztec legend also held that the city was birthplace to their feathered serpent god, Quetzacoatl. Archeologists and historians have searched for the city ever since the time of Cortez's letter without success.

This latest search for Ciudad Blanca used a technology known as lidar (light direction and ranging). This mapping method uses low-flying aircraft to map the area under their flight path. The planes produced constant pulses of laser light that is then reflected back to a detector aboard the plane. Maps produced by this method can measure elevation to just four inches. Vegetation was removed from the map by 3D modeling, revealing artificial structures that were quickly spotted by Bill Carter of the University of Houston.

Stephen Leisz of the the American Geophysical Union said, "We use lidar to pinpoint where human structures are by looking for linear shapes and rectangles. Nature doesn't work in straight lines."

Steven Elkins and Bill Benenson developed the idea to search for the lost city after recent evidence suggested that highly-developed cities had once been present in the remote rainforest. Part of their drive for finding the ruins was to film the search for the city as the subject of a new documentary film.

Christopher Fisher, a Colorado State University professor who led the research took a cautious approach when he said, "We may never be able to tell whether any of these are Ciudad Blanca, or whether the legendary city ever existed, but we can clearly see in the UTL data evidence that there was a densely settled region with a human modified environment."

The results of the research was announced as part of the American Geophysical Union Meeting of the Americas in Cancun on May 15.

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