The Legendary Lost City of Honduras?

In 1526, Hernán Cortés wrote about a fabled lost city. Generations of scholars have considered it a myth. But now, a new expedition may be on the verge of proving otherwise. Did the lost city of Ciudad Blanca really exist?

The Mysterious Lost City of Ciudad Blanca?

In 1526, Cortés wrote his fifth letter to Charles V. In it, he mentions a mysterious province named Xucutaco which “will exceed Mexico in riches.”

“…I have trustworthy reports of very extensive and rich provinces, and of powerful chiefs ruling over them, and of one in particular, called Hueitapalan, and in another dialect Xucutaco, about which I possessed information six years since, having all this time made inquiries about it, and ascertained that it lies eight or ten days’ march from that town of Trujillo, or rather between fifty and sixty leagues. So wonderful are the reports about this particular province, that even allowing largely for exaggeration, it will exceed Mexico in riches, and equal it in the largeness of its towns and villages, the density of its population, and the policy of its inhabitants.” ~ Hernán Cortés, 1926,  Fifth Letter to Charles V

Based on the letter, it appears he first heard of this strange place around 1520. It was probably located in the impenetrable jungle of Honduras’ Mosquito Coast. In 1544, Bishop Cristobol de Pedraza wrote a letter to the King of Spain, describing a mysterious city in the jungle. It was located in a valley and his guides informed him that its people ate on gold plates.

Ciudad Blanca & the Lost City of the Monkey God?

Centuries later, in 1939, explorer Theodore Morde claimed to have found a lost city in the jungle.

“Explorer Theodore Morde Finds in Honduras Jungles a Vanished Civilization’s Prehistoric Metropolis where Sacrifices were made to the Gigantic Idol of an Ape – and Describes the Weird “Dance of the Dead Monkeys” still Practiced by Natives in Whom Runs the Old Blood” ~ Milwaukee Sentinel Headline, Sept. 22, 1940

Morde supposedly went on to write a book entitled, The Lost City of the Monkey God, although I have yet to locate a copy of it. Unfortunately, he was run over by a car before he could return to his city.

Over the years, all these ruins have generally been attributed to one city, the legendary Ciudad Blanca. According to Christopher Begley’s and Ellen Cox’s article, “Reading and Writing the White City Legend: Allegories Past and Future,” the roots of Ciudad Blanca lie deep in Honduran mythology. The Pech and Tawahka peoples tell stories about Wahai Patatahua (Place of the Ancestors) and Kao Kamasa (The White House). According to the Pech, the Honduran gods fled to these places after the arrival of the conquistadors. While the exact location remains unknown, it is generally believed to be in the remote areas of the Mosquito Coast.

The Lost City of Ciudad Blanca – Discovered at Last?

On May 15, 2012, Pepe Lobo, the President of Honduras, announced the completion of “the first-ever airborne light detection and ranging (“LiDAR”) imaging survey of previously-uncharted areas of the Mosquitia region of Honduras.” The work was aided by famous author, Douglas Preston, whose novel The Codex describes a search for Ciudad Blanca. The initial analyses of the data seem to show archaeological ruins in the area.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, is this the famous Ciudad Blanca? Well, it’s time for a reality check. The press release doesn’t claim to have found the White City. As you can see below, it’s couched in far more careful terms.

“Initial analysis of the LiDAR data indicates what appears to be evidence of archaeological ruins in an area long rumored to contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca.” ~ The Government of Honduras & UTL Scientific Press Release, May 15, 2012

This press release was jointly issued by the government of Honduras and UTL Scientific. UTL is a media company and is making a documentary of the search. Both parties have ample reasons to hype up this venture. Also, this is hardly the first modern search of its kind. In the late 1990s, Francis Yakam-Simen, Edmond Nezry, and James Ewing claimed to have discovered Ciudad Blanca using Synthetic Aperture Radar technology. They wrote a paper about it, entitled A Legendary Lost City found in the Honduran Tropical Forest. I have no idea whether they ever actually visited these supposed ruins.

In the end, it’s unlikely these new ruins were that of Ciudad Blanca. It’s even questionable whether Ciudad Blanca ever existed in the first place. Its roots lie in mythology. And neither Cortés nor Bishop Cristobol de Pedraza described their supposed cities in that fashion. The name appears to be a later addition. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ruins in the area. Indeed, Dr. Chris Begley has discovered over 200 archaeological sites in the region, which he chronicles on his website. So, ruins are out there. But do they belong to a massive, undiscovered city? That remains to be seen.

The Lost Photo of Amelia Earhart’s Plane?

In 1937, Amelia Earhart vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Can an old photograph solve the mystery behind her disappearance?

Background on Amelia Earhart

Nearly 75 years ago, Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan vanished while attempting a circumnavigational flight around the Earth. For more than two decades, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has searched for them, focusing most of its efforts on tiny Gardner Island.

In less than a month, TIGHAR will return to Gardner Island, hoping to solve this enduring mystery once and for all. In preparation for the expedition, the group recently held a 3-day conference in Arlington, VA.

Three interesting pieces of evidence were featured. Two days ago, we discussed a possible anti-freckle jar found on Gardner Island, which might’ve belonged to Amelia. Yesterday, we talked about “post-loss radio signals.” And today, we’re focusing on a strange photograph.

The Bevington Photo?

Three months after Amelia’s disappearance, a British expedition was sent to the Phoenix Islands to search for possible settlements. A Navy Cadet Officer named Eric Bevington took numerous personal photographs along the way. This photograph is believed to have been taken off the west end of Gardner Island. The ship on the right is the wreck of the British freighter SS Norwich City. On the left, you can see a small red box, showing what appears to be an object sticking out of the ocean.

“There are telltale signs that lend themselves to strongly suggest that it is in fact a landing gear.” ~ Jeff Glickman

Recently, a forensic examiner named Jeff Glickman reviewed this photograph. It didn’t appear to be a defect so he used the tools at his disposal to enhance it.

You can see the resulting image here. Even though it’s been enhanced, it’s still pretty fuzzy. So, it’s impossible to be certain but it looks a little like an upside-down landing gear, complete with strut, wheel, and mud flap. Experts at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research have concurred with Glickman that the object “is consistent with Lockheed Installation 40650, one of the main landing gear assemblies on Earhart’s Lockheed Electra Model 10E Special.”

Interestingly enough, this object, whatever it is, was gone by December 1938, when the next known photograph of the area was taken. This supports TIGHAR’s theory, namely that Amelia’s Lockheed Electra crash-landed on the reef edge and got caught up in the “spur and groove” surf zone. Amelia proceeded to send radio distress calls for several days. Eventually, the waves battered her plane to pieces and the craft sank into the ocean. Amelia supposedly died as a castaway (a female skeleton, now lost, is believed to have been found in 1940). Fred’s fate remains unknown.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The photograph is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence to emerge in years. In fact, it has allowed TIGHAR to raise substantial funds to return to Gardner Island and investigate the steep underwater ridge off the island’s west end. The search won’t be easy. The water is deep at the reef, plunging beyond 3,000 feet in some places.

Well, that’s it for now. Next month, we’ll be following TIGHAR’s big expedition back to Gardner Island. So, stay tuned…there’s lots more to come!


Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of Amelia Earhart

New Evidence for Amelia Earhart: Part II?

In 1937, Amelia Earhart vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Can decades-old radio signals solve the mystery behind her disappearance?

Background on Amelia Earhart

Nearly 75 years ago, Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan vanished while attempting a circumnavigational flight around the Earth. For more than two decades, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has searched for them, focusing most of its efforts on tiny Gardner Island.

In less than a month, TIGHAR will return to Gardner Island, hoping to solve this enduring mystery once and for all. In preparation for the expedition, the group recently held a 3-day conference in Arlington, VA.

Three interesting pieces of evidence were featured. Yesterday, we discussed a possible anti-freckle jar found on Gardner Island, which might’ve belonged to Amelia. Today, we’re going to talk about “post-loss radio signals.” And tomorrow, we’ll focus on a strange photograph.

Post-Loss Radio Signals…from Amelia Earhart?

Amelia vanished on July 2, 1937. From July 2 to July 18, radio operators reported 120 signals that could possibly be traced to her Lockheed Electra aircraft. These reports have been largely dismissed by experts who suspect she crashed into the middle of the ocean. However, researchers at TIGHAR recently analyzed these signals using “digitized information management systems, antenna modeling software, and radio wave propagation analysis programs.”

“Amelia Earhart did not simply vanish on July 2, 1937. Radio distress calls believed to have been sent from the missing plane dominated the headlines and drove much of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy search. When the search failed, all of the reported post-loss radio signals were categorically dismissed as bogus and have been largely ignored ever since.” ~ Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR

TIGHAR found 57 credible signals out of the 120 reports. This indicates Amelia’s airplane remained above-water for several days following her “disappearance.” In turn, this fits with TIGHAR’s hypothesis that Amelia crashed on Gardner Island and her plane remained on land for several days before finally being “washed over the reef.”

“The safest procedure is to transmit only when the engine is running, and battery power is required to start the engine. To run the engine, the propeller must be clear of obstructions, and water level must never reach the transmitter.” ~ Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Obviously, this evidence is circumstantial. And some of the 57 radio signals could still be “hoaxes.” However, we find this particular body of evidence quite interesting. At least four signals were heard by multiple radio stations.  And other radio signals were reported by credible sources.

“281 north Howland – call KHAQQ – beyond north — won’t hold with us much longer — above water — shut off.” ~ Morse Code Message received by the U.S. Navy Radio at Wailupe, Honolulu, July 5, 1937

Well, that’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’re going to examine a photograph taken three months after Amelia’s disappearance, possibly showing the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra aircraft. Also, don’t forget yesterday’s post on glass shards from Gardner Island which might’ve once belonged to Amelia. And of course, next month, we’ll be following TIGHAR’s big expedition back to Gardner Island where researchers hope to excavate Amelia’s plane from the deep waters off the island’s western end. So, stay tuned…there’s lots more to come!

New Evidence for Amelia Earhart?

On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart vanished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Now, new evidence has come to light. Are researchers on the verge of solving one of the most spectacular unsolved mysteries of history?

Background on Amelia Earhart

Nearly 75 years ago, Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan vanished while attempting a circumnavigational flight around the Earth. For more than two decades, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has searched for them, focusing most of its efforts on tiny Gardner Island.

In less than a month, TIGHAR will return to Gardner Island, hoping to solve this enduring mystery once and for all. In preparation for the expedition, the group recently held a 3-day conference in Arlington, VA.

Three interesting pieces of evidence have been featured thus far. We’re planning to discuss all of them over the coming days. First up are five small pieces of glass recovered by TIGHAR over various expeditions. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about “post-loss radio signals.” And then, we’ll focus on a strange photograph.

Amelia Earhart’s Anti-Freckle Cream?

We already mentioned the small pieces of glass. Individually, they don’t amount to much. But when fully assembled, the glass forms a “nearly complete jar identical in shape to the ones used by Dr. C.H. Berry’s Freckle Ointment.” This particular product was marketed as an anti-freckle cream and was 11% mercury (!). Here’s a photo of it.

“It’s well documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them.” ~ Joe Cerniglia, TIGHAR

TIGHAR believes Amelia and Fred failed to locate their intended destination, Howland Island. So, they flew 300 miles past it before finally landing on the flat coral reef of uninhabited Gardner Island.

“Broken shards from several glass containers have been recovered from the Seven Site, the archaeological site on the southeast end of Nikumaroro that fits the description of where the partial skeleton of a castaway was discovered in‭ ‬1940.” ~ Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR

However, the anti-freckle jar is not without controversy. It’s not an exact match to surviving examples of the product. For example, it’s made of clear glass rather than opaque white glass. It’s also a slightly different size although this might not be a problem.

“The reassembled artifact jar does,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬fit nicely in a box in which freckle cream was marketed.‭ ‬The known Dr.‭ ‬Berry jars do not.‭ ‬So we know there was a jar of Dr.‭ ‬Berry’s Freckle Ointment of the same size as the artifact jar,‭ ‬but we don’t know whether it was clear glass.” ~ Ric Gillespie, Executive Director of TIGHAR

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, the glass fragments are interesting but ultimately, don’t really prove anything. Their presence, along with other clues, indicates a castaway lived on Gardner Island for a short while. Whether that castaway was Amelia and/or Fred remains to be seen.

Tomorrow, we’re going to take a look at a reinterpretation of some post-disappearance radio signals. And on Tuesday, we’ll examine a photograph taken three months after Amelia’s disappearance, possibly showing the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra aircraft. And of course, next month, we’ll be following TIGHAR’s big expedition back to Gardner Island where researchers hope to excavate Amelia’s plane from the deep waters off the island’s western end. So, stay tuned…there’s lots more to come!

The Strange Collapse of the Harappan Civilization?

Some 4,000 years ago, the mighty Harappan civilization accounted for 10% of the entire global population. Suddenly, this once-great society collapsed. What happened to the Harappan civilization?

Why did the Harappan Civilization Collapse?

The Harappan, or Indus, sprouted up 5,200 years ago. It grew into an ancient powerhouse, covering a massive area of 386,000 square miles, including parts of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Archaeological digs show it contained large cities, plumbing, sea links, trade routes, and a unique writing system (which has yet to be deciphered). But then, after more than 1,000 years of existence, the society began to crumble. People abandoned their homes and moved east.

“Antiquity knew about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but the Indus civilization, which was bigger than these two, was completely forgotten until the 1920s. There are still many things we don’t know about them.” ~ Liviu Giosan, Geologist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Recently, Liviu Giosan and a team of researchers collected vast amounts of data on the area’s geological history. They discovered that monsoon rains caused rivers to once flow through the region. These rivers were initially too wild to support agriculture. However, they started to weaken about 5,000 years ago, coinciding with the rise of the Harappan civilization. But eventually, the rivers dried up and the Harappan shifted east toward the still-wet Ganges basin. Thus, the “collapse.”

Why do Complex Societies Collapse?

The question of why complex societies collapse is an old one. These days, environmental explanations are all the rage. And it’s no accident. Throughout time, collapse theories have served as critiques of the modern world.

“Whereas collapses were once attributed to impious or selfish rulers, or in West’s view to indolent masses, in today’s framework the sin is gluttony: ancient societies collapsed because they overshot the carrying capacities of their environments, degrading their support bases in the process. And since it happened to past societies, it could happen to us too. According to contemporary literature, the next collapse will come because all of us have consumed too many goods, eaten too much, driven too far, and produced too many children.” ~ Joseph Tainter, Collapse, Sustainability, and the Environment: How Authors Choose to Fail or Succeed

Take the Classic Maya for example. The Maya used a complex water management system that depended on regular rainfall. So, when rain decreased for an extended period of time, the Classic Maya were supposedly unable to adjust. They proceeded to abandon their cities, causing the famous collapse of the Classic Maya civilization.

Sounds good right? Ancient climate change wrecks havoc and people move away, seeking better conditions. But that presents a problem. Complex societies are formed to deal with complex problems. So, why didn’t the Harrapan or the Maya find ways to deal with their environmental problems? Well, in all likelihood, they tried to. And thus, we would postulate that there is another reason for their collapses. Collapses, as Joseph Tainter once said, “happen.” They are a natural part of civilization.

“As a society faces problems, it becomes more complex in order to solve them. A central government creates “solutions” which consume resources and cause yet more problems. The society becomes increasingly complex, leading to the necessity of even more complex solutions. Eventually, the costs of maintaining such a complex society outweighs the benefits at the individual level. When problems arise – things like drought or invasion – the collapse of the society is more desirable than the alternative. At that point, the civilization undergoes a process of simplification.” ~ David Meyer, The Mystery of the Vanishing Maya

Interestingly enough, the Harappan didn’t construct new cities once they fled their old homes. Instead, they shifted toward “small farming communities.” This would appear to support the idea of deliberate simplification.

“Cities collapsed, but smaller agricultural communities were sustainable and flourished. Many of the urban arts, such as writing, faded away, but agriculture continued and actually diversified.” ~ Dorian Fuller, Archaeologist, University College London

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The desire for societal collapse might strike some of you as strange. But you have to remember that ancient societies weren’t uniform. Not everyone could be an astronomer or a high priest. Most people were ordinary workers.

As ancient societies got more complex, layers of bureaucrats, academics, and other “elites” began to form. The brunt of supporting these layers often fell on a particular group of people. These people built massive buildings, provided food, were pressed into wars, served as sacrificial victims, and paid taxes for the “privileges of society.” Under those conditions, many people would’ve found view the loss of complexity as a blessing. For example, studies have shown that the health and nutrition of peasants deteriorated during the rise of the Classic Maya. These same factors improved after the collapse.

It’s possible climate change served as a trigger for the collapse of the Harappan civilization. But many civilizations have managed to avoid similar collapses despite horrific droughts and famines. So, it seems quite possible to us that there is another explanation at play here. When the river began to dry up, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The cost of maintaining the complicated Harappan society just became too steep for the average peasant. Rather than stick it out, they decided to seek better lives. While we view this as a collapse, the ancient Harappan may have seen it differently. To them, it might’ve been a new beginning.

The First American Daredevil?

On October 7, 1829, Sam Patch ventured out onto a ladder and leapt 85 into the churning waters of the Niagara River. When he surfaced, the crowd went crazy. Who was the first American Daredevil?

Sam Patch: The First American Daredevil?

Sam Patch was born in Rhode Island in 1807. While still young, he began “to jump for purses of cash.” On September 30, 1827, Patch made his first of many historical leaps. On that day, he dodged a constable and leapt off the cliff next to Passaic Falls in New Jersey. By the time he lifted his head out of the water, he was famous.

Patch’s biography is largely incomplete. Most historians believe he jumped numerous times over the next two years. However, only a few of those jumps have been confirmed. One particularly memorable jump took place almost a year after Passaic Falls. On August 28, 1828, Patch survived a 100-foot jump from a ship’s mast in Hoboken, New Jersey. After that, he was ready to take on his most famous obstacle, Niagara Falls.

In 1829, Patch was invited to jump over Niagara Falls as part of an exhibition designed to bring business to the area. He was one of several acts. As hundreds of people watched, gunpowder was used to detonate large chunks of rock from the Falls. Then an unmanned schooner named Superior was sent over the Falls. The next day, Patch took the stage. Poor weather and the delay in his arrival limited the crowd. Still, he made the jump and the crowd loved it. He became the first person to, in essence, leap over Niagara Falls and live to tell about it.

He repeated the feat ten days later in front of a much larger crowd of 10,000 people. He survived again and came out yelling, “There’s no mistake in Sam Patch!”

“The jump of Patch is the greatest feat of the kind ever effected by man. He may now challenge the universe for a competitor.” ~ Buffalo Republican

Sam Patch vs. The High Falls of the Genesee River?

Patch was famous. His slogan, “Some things can be done as well as others,” became known throughout the nation. He went onto Rochester, New York to test the High Falls of the Genesee River. On November 6, 1829, he climbed onto a rock ledge in the middle of the river. Then he tossed a “begging pet bear” over the Falls. Seeing that the bear had survived, Patch followed suit, successfully leaping 97 feet in front of 7,000 to 8,000 people.

However, Patch was supposedly disappointed with the amount of money he raised. So, he decided to duplicate the jump on November 13. This time, he constructed a 25-foot stand, turning the jump into one that was close to 125 feet high.

“Napoleon was a great man and a great general. He conquered armies and he conquered nations, but he couldn’t jump the Genesee Falls. Wellington was a great man and a great soldier. He conquered armies and he conquered nations, but he couldn’t jump the Genesee Falls. That was left for me to do, and I can do it, and will.” ~ Sam Patch, November 13, 1829, Rochester, NY

Accounts differ as to what happened next. Patch usually dove with his hands plastered against his sides, his toes pointed, and his posture perfectly straight. But for some reason, his body crashed into the water at an awkward angle. He didn’t surface.

At first, Patch’s body wasn’t found. Rumors abounded that it was just another stunt. Eyewitnesses reported seeing him in Pittsford among other nearby towns. It wasn’t until the following spring that a hired hand found Patch’s corpse near the mouth of the river.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

At the young age of 22, Patch was dead. But why did he perform such risky jumps? And why were Americans so obsessed with his feats? In his book, Sam Patch, The Famous Jumper, Paul E. Johnson discusses some possible answers. Johnson sees Patch as a working class hero who mastered the “art of the jump” in a day and age when the individual art of craftsmanship was giving way to industrialization. Also, he postulates that Patch’s success showed working class people that fame could be achieved by anyone in America.

Patch was buried in Charlotte Cemetery with a wooden marker that read, “Sam Patch – Such is Fame.”

“Sam Patch belongs to history. He achieved fame in his day and generation, and his name will go down to posterity. Sam Patch was truly a great man. Not a great warrior like Alexander, or Julius Caesar, or Charles XII, or Napoleon, or lots of others, whom it is unnecessary to name, for ‘Heroes are much the same – the point’s agreed – from Macedonia’s madman to the Swede.’ Nor was he a great philosopher, in the common acceptation of the term, like Pythagoras, or Plato, or Newton, or Franklin. Nor a great statesman like Pitt, or Peel, or Webster. His greatness did not lie in this line. And yet Sam Patch was truly great – he was a great jumper.” ~ Life and Death of Sam Patch, United States magazine

Did Paul Revere Save the United States?

According to American Mythology, Paul Revere jumped onto a horse on April 18, 1775 and rode into the night, shouting “The British are coming!” But did Paul Revere’s Ride actually happen?

The Story of Paul Revere’s Ride

According to American mythology, Paul Revere’s ride was a solo one. He and other colonists knew the British were preparing to attack. So, he waited in Charleston for a signal from signal lanterns. One lantern in the Old North Church’s steeple would indicate a land invasion, two would mean a sea-based attack. He saw two lanterns and then rode through Medford, Lexington, and Concord to warn everyone, “The British are Coming!”

It’s a good story. One that has become a significant part of American history. It’s also severely flawed and in some respects, completely incorrect.

Paul Revere’s Ride: American History or American Mythology?

Interestingly enough, Paul Revere was little known for almost a century after his now-famous ride. Then in 1860, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned a famous poem entitled Paul Revere’s Ride. Longfellow was an abolitionist and wanted to convince his fellow northerners to take military action to keep the Union intact. As such, he deliberately romanticized his work in order to create a legend out of Revere.

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere’s Ride

The truth as you might expect, is a bit more messy. The British Army was in Massachusetts that evening. They planned to disarm the colonists by seizing a weapons cache in Concord. They also planned to arrest the leaders of the budding American rebellion, including John Hancock and Samuel Adams.

Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, learned of the plan. He sent two riders, Paul Revere and William Dawes, to Lexington to warn Adams and Hancock. They were to alert colonial militias along the way.

Revere and Dawes rode to Lexington, delivering warnings to every house they passed. Other riders, perhaps as many as 40 of them, raced into the night to spread the message. No one shouted, “The British are coming!” Indeed, most of the colonists considered themselves British. The entire rebellion was about the colonists standing up for what they considered to be true British values.

According to Revere, the exact message was, “The Regulars are coming out,” with the Regulars referring to the Regular Army. And since the operation was a secret, it’s unlikely anyone actually shouted out the message.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Eventually, Revere and Dawes reached Lexington. They delivered the warning and picked up a third rider named Samuel Prescott. They proceeded to ride onto Concord. However, British troops spotted them in Lincoln. Revere was captured and questioned. Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped. Dawes also escaped but later fell off his horse. Fortunately, Prescott reached Concord in time to warn the colonists. The next day, the British Army attacked. The Battles of Lexington and Concord raged. And out of that dust emerged the beginnings of a new country, the United States of America.

“‘Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear—
My name was Dawes and his Revere.” ~ Helen F. Moore, The Midnight Ride of William Dawes

The Lost Treasure of General Custer?

Update: On Saturday, December 6, 2014, I will be teaming up with forensic geologist Scott Wolter in the world premiere of Custer’s Blood Treasure, the latest episode of H2’s #1 hit original series, America Unearthed. You can read more about it here.

On June 25, 1876, General George Custer led the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry Regiment against a large Indian army. He and his forces were wiped out in what became known as Custer’s Last Stand. In the process, he left behind a valuable treasure which remains lost to this day.

The Lost Treasure of General Custer?

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie guaranteed possession of the Black Hills, a region stretching from North Dakota to Montana, to the Lakota Indians. In 1874, General Custer was sent on a scouting mission to the area. He returned a month later, reporting gold “from the grassroots down.” This touched off a gold rush. Initially, the U.S. Army tried to honor the treaty by evicting the many prospectors. But eventually, it gave up.

In 1876, the Lakota joined forces with the Cheyenne and Sioux. Led by Gall, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, they revolted. General Custer, along with 650 men, was dispatched to end the uprising. When he arrived at Little Bighorn River, he distributed four months of back pay to his men, some $25,000 in gold coins and paper currency.

On June 25, 1876, Custer led his men into battle against the combined Indian army. They were severely outnumbered and Custer’s poor leadership led to an eventual slaughter. Here’s where the story gets a bit odd. Supposedly, the Indians stripped the dead and stole their gold coins and paper money. They placed it in a saddle bag and buried it in a secret location. A Cheyenne chieftain named Two Moons later told the story to a white Indian trader named W.P. Moncure. Two Moons also drew him a map to the lost treasure.

The Lost Treasure Gets Lost Again

In 1936, Moncure reburied the body of Two Moons in a stone and mortar mausoleum. Twenty years later, a reporter named Kathryn Wright investigated the mausoleum. She discovered a hidden vault under a bronze plaque. She persuaded the Cheyenne to open it for her.

“Inside the vault were remembrances of Two Moons. These included a portrait of Two Moons, stone tools, arrowheads, sacred Indian relics, and a rifle belonging to one of the troopers of the Seventh Cavalry. There was also a large manila envelope.” ~ Dick Mullins, The Daily Inter Lake, July 1, 1957

A message about the lost treasure was typed on the envelope. Part of it read, “Hiding place and location of money and trinkets taken from dead soldiers on Custer Battlefield.” The last part of the envelope said it was to be opened on June 25, 1986. This would be 110 years after Custer’s Last Stand and 50 years after the reburial.

In 1957, Kathryn Wright published her story in Montana magazine and received permission to open the envelope. However, someone had already beaten her to it, breaking open the vault and stealing the sealed envelope and other artifacts. The lost treasure of General Custer has never been found. It’s possible it was dug up years ago by whoever stole the envelope. But its also possible no one ever found it. For all we know, Custer’s lost treasure is still out there somewhere, waiting to be dug up.


Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

By the 4th century BC, the ancient Greeks had conquered much of Egypt, Persia, and Babylonia. This opened the door for ancient travel writers to record the most amazing structures in the so-called “known world.” What were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

What were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

Multiple versions of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World exist. However, the canonical version is generally listed as follows:

  1. Great Pyramid of Giza
  2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  4. Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  5. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. Colossus of Rhodes
  7. Lighthouse of Alexandria

Considering the nationality of the travel writers, it should be no surprise that Greek architecture dominates this list. Only the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon came from civilizations outside of Greece. Interestingly enough, those Seven Wonders only existed at the same time for about 55 years. That’s the lifespan of the magnificent, but extremely short-lived Colossus of Rhodes.

However, the canonical list isn’t the original one. For example, check out this poem written by Antipater of Sidon in 140 BC.

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'” ~ Antipater of Sidon, Greek Anthology (IX.58)

Interesting huh? His list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World has the Walls of Babylon (which includes the famous Ishtar Gate) instead of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. And older lists include even more variations. Diodorus mentions a mysterious obelisk in Babylon as “among the seven wonders of the world.” The Palace of Cyrus has also been mentioned in this regard. Supposedly, the earliest Seven Wonders lists didn’t include any non-Greek monuments. Unfortunately, none of those lists exist today.

Sadly, other than the Great Pyramid of Giza, all the ancient wonders have succumbed to the ravages of time. In addition, numerous questions surround the inclusion of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Indeed, many modern scholars question its very existence.

Updating the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

Just as the original list of wonders changed over the years, many modern groups have created their own lists. Perhaps the most notable one comes from the New7Wonders Foundation:

  1. Great Wall of China
  2. Petra
  3. Christ the Redeemer
  4. Machu Picchu
  5. Chichen Itza
  6. Colosseum
  7. Taj Majal
  8. Great Pyramid of Giza (Honorary Member)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

But should we take this list seriously? After all, it excludes the Moai of Easter Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Angor Wat. Furthermore, this was a popularity poll conducted in part on the Internet. Since there were no steps taken to prevent multiple votes, there was no way to stop ballot box stuffing.

Regardless, there are literally hundreds of possible candidates for a modern Seven Wonders of the World. In fact, there are so many candidates, its impossible for everyone to agree on one list. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. It indicates the world we’ve created is literally full of Wonders.

An Ancient Facebook?

With Facebook’s public offering now a thing of the past, it seems like a good time to look at a much older version of social networking…petroglyphs. What was the Bronze Age Facebook?

Ancient Petroglyphs = An Ancient Facebook?

Starting around 4000 BC, semi-nomadic people began to carve petroglyphs on granite rocks in western Russia and northern Sweden. These people would move inland during colder months to hunt elk while spending warmer months fishing near the coasts.

In the ensuing generations, more people traveled through these areas and carved their own petroglyphs into the rocks. Everything from animals to people to boats were depicted on these boulders. Recently, a PhD archaeology student named Mark Sapwell analyzed the images.

“The rock art we see today is the result of a culmination of many repeated acts of carving, each responding to each other over time. Like a Facebook status invites comment, the rock art appears very social and invites addition.” ~ Mark Sapwell

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Many of the petroglyphs were exact replications of other images, which Sapwell considers an analogy to “a primitive like.” Also, the petroglyphs indicate changes in preference over time. Images of hybrid creatures lost popularity around 3500 BC. And the Swedish rocks show a decline in elk pictures around 2000 to 1800 BC. This decline is coupled with a rise in boat carvings, pointing to the increasing importance in long-distance travel.

“Like today, people have always wanted to feel connected to each other — this was an expression of identity for these very early societies, before written language.” ~ Mark Sapwell