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Wed Mar 11, 2015, 05:15 PM

Archaeologists condemn National Geographic over claims of Honduran 'lost cities'

Archaeologists condemn National Geographic over claims of Honduran 'lost cities'

Open letter says announcement ignores decades of research and says of indigenous peoples there: ‘It is colonialist discourse which disrespects them’

Alan Yuhas @alanyuhas
Wednesday 11 March 2015 14.22 EDT

More than two dozen archaeologists and anthropologists have written an open letter of protest against the “sensationalisation” of their fields, with one accusing National Geographic of reverting to “a colonialist discourse” in announcing researchers had found two city-like sites in the deep jungles of Honduras.

They also say National Geographic has ignored decades of research that suggests Honduras was home to a vibrant chain of kingless societies, which merged qualities of the Maya to the north with other people’s less stratified, more equal cultures.

The scholars criticise National Geographic and the media for what they describe as the aggrandisement of a single expedition at the expense of years of research by scientists and decades of support from indigenous people of the dense rainforests in Honduras’ Mosquitia region.

John Hoopes, a signatory and professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, said that National Geographic had shown “a disrespect for indigenous knowledge”. The expedition was co-coordinated by two American film-makers, National Geographic and Honduras’ national institute of anthropology.

“Any words like ‘lost’ or ‘civilization’ should set off alarm bells,” said Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and also a signatory, for the same reasons that the word “discover” is no longer accepted to discuss Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.


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