The jungle-choked remains of a "lost city", abandoned by a mysterious civilisation several centuries ago and long thought to have housed gold and "monkey children", have been uncovered in the depths of Honduras rainforests.
A team of US and Honduran archaeologists, aided by the survival skills of former British SAS soldiers, has emerged from one of the most remote locations on Earth with news of their discovery.
The expedition party was seeking the "White City", also known as the "City of the Monkey God", an ambition of Western explorers since the days of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.
The city, believed to be one of many lost in the Mosquitia jungle, was home to an unknown people that thrived a thousand years ago but then vanished without trace. Unlike the Maya, so little is known of this pre-Columbian culture that it does not even have a name.
The discovery was disclosed by the National Geographic, which sent a writer and photographer with the expedition to the riverside site in a crater-shaped valley, encircled by mountains.
The archaeologists surveyed and mapped extensive plazas, earthworks, mounds, and an earthen pyramid, the magazine reported.
They also discovered a "remarkable cache of stone sculptures" that had lain untouched for centuries and documented their findings, but left them unexcavated.
"It shows that even now, well into the 21st century, there is so much to discover about our world," said Christopher Fisher, the lead archaeologist.
"The untouched nature of the site is unique and if preserved and properly studied can tell us much about these past people and provide critical data for modern conservation," he told. The Mosquitia is a vast and barely inhabited region of swamps, rivers, and mountains. The team was guided by Steve Sullivan and Andrew Wood, former SAS soldiers who are experts in bushcraft survival skills. Accompanied by Honduran troops, they set up base in a small town and were ferried by military helicopter into a landing zone cut from the jungle.
The terrain's inaccessibility has made it a major drug transit route for cartels trafficking cocaine from South America to the US. The expedition was following up on the work of an aerial survey in 2012. (© Daily Telegraph, London)