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Archaeological dig begins at Honduras’ famed ‘City of the Monkey God’

A cache of at least 51 artifacts, found partly exposed, lie in a cache in a secret location in the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras.

A cache of at least 51 artifacts, found partly exposed, lie in a cache in a secret location in the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras.  (Courtesy Dave Yoder/National Geographic)

After years of speculation and research, scientists have finally begun their dig at the elusive "Lost City of the Monkey God" in Honduras.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández announced that the new dig - in partnership with Colorado State University archaeologists – has begun on the site where a God is said to have fathered half-human, half-monkey children.

"This discovery has created a lot of excitement because of its significance for Honduras and the world," Hernandez said, according to the Daily Mail.

The most recent search for the site began back in 2012, when a group of archaeologists and filmmakers used a form of light detection and ranging equipment known as lidar to find the remains of the lost city by airplane. In layman's terms, the scientists flew a small plane over the dense stretch of jungle, shooting lasers at the topography to map out the land below the canopy, where they purportedly discovered a network of plazas and pyramids, hidden for hundreds of years.

Traveling over boat and foot through the dense foliage of the vast, lightly inhabited 32,000-square-mile Mosquitia region of Honduras – known as Central America's Little Amazon – the team of scientists surveyed and mapped a collection of plazas, earthworks, mounds, and even an earthen pyramid belonging to a culture that thrived between 1,000 and 1,400 AD – paralleling the Mayans – before the culture apparently vanished into the jungle.

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With the tops of 52 artifacts peeking out from the ground, the archeologists believed that more evidence of the civilization – including some burials – is hidden under the surface. Some artifacts recovered include stone ceremonial seats – known as mutates – and excellently engraved containers decorated with snakes, zoomorphic figures and vultures.

The most striking find was the carved head of what archeologists speculated might be "a were-jaguar," – possibly representing a shaman in a transformed, spirit state. The artifact also might be related to ritualized ball games that were played in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

The currently not-so-lost city, which is also called the White City or "Ciudad Blanca" in Spanish, has tempted explorers for centuries with as far back as 1526, when Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés sent a letter to Spanish emperor Charles V after hearing "reliable" rumors of an area in Honduras that "will exceed Mexico in riches, and equal it in the largeness of its towns and villages."

Cortés never found the city, but rumors of its existence persisted even as the The jungle's remote location and the dangers that accompany a journey into the heart of darkness – poisonous snakes, disease, oppressive heat, dense foliage – has kept many explorers at bay and thwarted other attempts.

American, Theodore Morde claimed to have found what he called the Lost City of the Monkey God – named for the allegation that local indigenous people worshipped huge ape sculptures – in 1939. Morde went off a tip from Charles Lindbergh, the first solo aviator to cross the Atlantic, who apparently saw "an amazing ancient metropolis" when flying over the jungle.

Morde, however, was killed in a car accident before revealing the location of the city he purportedly found.

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