The Lost City of the Monkey God, Douglas Preston

When I was a kid, I saw Indiana Jones and immediately wanted to become an archeologist. He was this rugged hero who made something like digging cool. As I got older however, I realized that archeology is probably not as interesting as Indiana Jones made it seem. Nonetheless, Douglas Preston proves that tales of intrigue, backstabbing, mysterious circumstances, and a lot of lost gold still make archeology kind of cool. The graduate archeologist students definitely are the jocks of graduate studies.

In any case, Preston’s tale in particular is about the lost city of Ciudad Blanca in the Honduras, or the “White City.” It used to be termed the City of the Monkey God and was thought to be a work of pure fiction. The most anyone had ever come close to finding the lost city was a team of swindlers who made up the excuse to find the White City in order to cover up for their gold finding expedition.

The myth persisted. Then, in the early 2010s, a technology called “LIDAR” was made available. It is a powerful laser technology with the ability to punch through the thick crust of the top of the rain forest to map that which was below without having to investigate that previously uncharted terrain on the ground. What a team of researchers and archeologists found was a lost city.

The book covers all this and what happens after they discover there was actually a lost city. Preston delves into a first hand account of what they managed to find on that first trip into Ciudad Blanca for perhaps a thousand years. What ensues is a great tale; one full of huge snakes, incredible discoveries, and political dealings. What follows is less exciting. Preston spends the latter half of the second half of the book describing a wound that never healed from the expedition through the jungle. This leads him to a tangent about what this disease is, what it can do, and how it is going to threaten America via global warming. This conjecture is a little off-putting and, in all honesty, the worst part of the book. Preston uses the book as a platform to address the and other crisis’, including deforestation and the marginalization of indigenous peoples by archeologists.

These are minor inconveniences, but the book would have been more enjoyable without them, in my opinion. Overall, the tale of this book is fascinating. I enjoyed reading it.

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