Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"An Ancient City Emerges in a Remote Rain Forest"

Most of the important archaeological sites in Central America were “discovered” by archaeologists who, in fact, didn’t discover them at all but were led to the ruins by local people. I’ve known several Maya archaeologists who routinely started fieldwork in a new area by heading into a dive bar and hoisting beers with the locals while listening to various bullshitters spin tales about ruins they’d seen in the jungle; once in a while, a story would turn out to be true. But, because these sites were long known to local people, they had invariably been disturbed, if not badly looted.

The revelation of an ancient city in a valley in the Mosquitia mountains, of Honduras, one of the last scientifically unexplored regions on Earth, was a different story.


There were five of us, along with three British ex-S.A.S. jungle-warfare specialists, whose job was to keep us alive for the next nine days.


But they were vulnerable to European diseases, especially smallpox and measles, which burned far ahead of actual European contact, triggering large population collapses. Anthropologists have documented that, between 1518 and 1550, almost ninety per cent of the native people of Honduras died of disease.