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Archaeologists discover lost city using LiDAR tech

US: A team of archaeologists claimed that they discovered legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca, known as the ‘White City’ of gold, in Honduras region – a dense Central American jungle. According to Daily Mail report, this was one of the first times that laser mapping, specifically light detection and ranging (LiDAR) had been used to locate ancient ruins. The original uses of the technology were to provide intelligence after earthquakes, military spying and for river erosion detection.

Flying above the intended target area, LiDAR operates by sending out 100,000 short laser pulses to the ground each second. Archaeologists from the University of Houston and the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) blanketed the Mosquitia rainforest with as many as 25-50 laser pulses every square metre that totalled up as more than four billion shots during the entire project.

Like a high-tech version of sonar, the light beams hit the ground and return to the aircraft and the time taken allows researchers to create 3D digital map of the surrounding topology. Able to differentiate between differences in height of less than four inches, the University of Houston has worked with the NCALM to develop their LiDAR systems.

Compiling their data, the archaeologists revealed what appears to be man-made elevation changes that are thought to show a forgotten city plaza dotted with pyramids reclaimed by the jungle.

According to legend, Ciudad Blanca or the ‘White City’ is full of gold and has been sought out by explorers and treasure hunters since conquistador Hernando Cortes first made reference to it in a 1526 letter to King Charles V of Spain.

Inspired by this legend, cinematographer and Ciudad Blanca enthusiast Steven Elkins sought backing from private investors to pay for the team at NCLAM to use their laser mapping technology to chart the forest floor of Mosquitia.

Ciudad Blanca has played a central role in Central American mythology. It is known as the birthplace of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and previous reported sightings over the years have described golden idols and elaborately carved white stones, leading to the lost city’s name.

However, no confirmation of the existence of the city has ever been provided. If confirmed, the discovery of Ciudad Blanca would be comparable to the popularisation of forgotten sites such as Machu Picchu, which lay ruined for hundreds of years until reintroduced to western eyes in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham.

And if the myth is dispelled, any positive identification of the fabled ‘White City’ of Ciudad Blanca would reignite hopes of finding the legendary ‘Lost City of Gold’, El Dorado.

While the news of the encouraging results this week were greeted favourably by Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, archaeologists will now have to undertake a trek through the dense forest to visit the site in person.

Source: Daily Mail