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Thu Mar 31, 2016, 11:11 AM

Looters, Tourism, and Racism: Controversy Surrounds 'Discovery' of Lost City in Honduras

Looters, Tourism, and Racism: Controversy Surrounds 'Discovery' of Lost City in Honduras

By Gabriela Gorbea
March 31, 2016 | 9:21 am

Dario Euraque sounded fed up as he explained how the academic community is no stranger to the archaeological gems hidden in La Mosquitia, a rainforest region in the easternmost part of Honduras.

"A lot of the archaeological sites there have already been identified in the past, but they were kept a secret out of preservation efforts, and because the people who found them were not interested in attracting tourism," said Euraque, a historian and former head of the Honduran Institute for Anthropology and History.

Euraque's criticism is directed at an ongoing US-led archaeological expedition that claims to have found an ancient city hidden in the Honduran jungle. The report on their findings was published in National Geographic last year, and the team returned to Honduras to continue their expedition in January 2016.

The possibility that the archaeologists may be taking credit for a discovery that is not theirs is just one of the controversies swirling around the team. It also faces accusations of overplaying the significance of the discovery, offending local indigenous groups by using racist dialogue, and leaving the area vulnerable to looting.

. . .

Local indigenous groups are also angered by the way the US-led team and the Honduran government have handled the situation.

On January 13, the union of indigenous people of La Mosquitia wrote an open letter to President Juan Orlando Hernández stating their objections to his actions. Both the president and the team that published the report in National Geographic failed to ask the people of La Mosquitia to approve the exploration and the extraction of archaeological artifacts, the letter read. The locals asked to keep the findings within their lands, arguing that they have always known about the existence and location of the White City.

The letter also asked the media to stop referring to the area as the "City of the Monkey God," saying that they considered it "racist" and "insulting."

A group of more than 24 archaeologists and anthropologists also wrote an open letter challenging the alleged discovery. The expedition is yet another representation of "colonialist speech," and an offense against the indigenous people's knowledge, the experts said.


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