SOURCE: UTL Productions

UTL Productions

March 06, 2015 21:47 ET

Expedition to Mosquitia Region of Honduras Confirms Ancient Ruins

Multi-Disciplinary Team of Scientists and Filmmakers Were Guided by Data From 2012 Airborne LiDAR Mission; Honduran Government Hopeful of International Cooperation and Assistance to Study Patrimony and Fight Deforestation

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Mar 6, 2015) - After emerging from the deepest part of the Honduran rain forest, a team of archaeologists, LiDAR experts, botanists and filmmakers returned with proof of large structures and artifacts from an ancient culture in an area purported to contain a legendary lost city.

The UTL ("Under the LiDAR") team had previously acquired exact coordinates of what appeared to be remnants of an ancient city from an airborne LiDAR survey completed in 2012 ( in a largely uncharted portion of the Mosquitia jungle. UTL principals Bill Benenson, a noted documentary filmmaker (The Hadza: Last of the First; Dirt! The Movie) and an executive producer of the upcoming feature film Beasts of No Nation, and Emmy® Award-winning cinematographer Steve Elkins produced the expedition and are planning a documentary film through their UTL Productions. 

Utilizing the latest GPS/LiDAR technologies and guided by coordinates from the original airborne LiDAR data, the UTL crew returned to the jungle for an 11-day ground-truthing expedition (Feb 16-26, 2015) that has resulted in significant new cultural and environmental discoveries. The UTL team consisted of American and Honduran archaeologists, an anthropologist, an ethnobotanist, a Central American forest expert, a LiDAR specialist and the documentary filmmakers. Writer Doug Preston and photographer David Yoder chronicled the expedition for National Geographic magazine. Here is a link to their first report upon returning: (

Bill Benenson, UTL's producer and co-director, noted "From the moment we first saw our aerial LiDAR images of an unknown ruin within the Honduran rain forest in 2012 to just a few weeks ago when we went into the undisturbed jungle by helicopter and 'ground-truthed' our digital discoveries, this has been one of the most amazing journeys of my life. Hopefully, it will help the Honduran people preserve this site and protect the jungle for years to come."

"The site represents an incredibly well preserved example of a long-term occupation in a tropical environment," says Christopher Fisher, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeologist, Colorado State University. "As such the site itself is embedded in a human-modified landscape that was sustainable for several centuries - or possibly more. It is one of many examples that show this area was densely occupied and largely human managed during the Pre-Columbian period. 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 base-line data for modern conservation. It also shows that even now, well into the 21st Century, there is much to discover about our world."

Project leader and co-director Steve Elkins says "It was a perfect expedition, 20 years in the making, that happened exactly as I hoped it would. Organizing this project and assembling the team has been a monumental effort but one I would gladly do again. This is the culmination of personal research as well as that of many others before me. It is my hope that by bringing attention to the cultural and natural wonders of the Mosquitia, global support will allow continued study as well as protection of this precious environment. Unfortunately we have noticed rapid deforestation occurring over the last several years."

"If we don't do something right away, most of this forest and valley will be gone in eight years," says Virgilio Paredes Trapero, the director of the Honduran Institute for Archaeology and History (IHAH), who visited the site and under whose auspices the expedition was mounted and executed. 

Based on the original LiDAR data from 2012, the government of Honduras immediately created the Mosquitia Patrimonial Heritage Preserve to protect the discoveries. Now the government is seeking international cooperation and assistance to study and conserve both the cultural sites and natural patrimony, especially in light of the increasing encroachment of deforestation. 

The expedition was a cooperative effort between UTL and the government of Honduras under the auspices of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH) with logistical support from the Honduran military. 

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