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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Archaeologists working in the dense jungle of Honduras have found dozens of artifacts at a site where they believe twin cities from an ancient civilization once thrived, the head of the country's anthropology institute said on Wednesday.
The artifacts unearthed at the site, in the eastern Mosquitia region of Honduras, point to a civilization with advanced artistic and engineering skills and are distinct from ancient Mayan cites also known to the region, said Virgilio Paredes, head of the national anthropology and history institute.
"No one had been there in over 600 years," he said.
The jungles of Mosquitia are located about 200 miles (322 km) northeast of the Honduran capital.
Paredes said 52 objects, including mostly-buried stone sculptures resembling men and jaguars as well as the remains of a pyramid and other structures, have been identified by a team of specialists from the United States and Honduras.
He said it is not clear if the discovery is related to the mythical White City first mentioned by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century or the lost "City of the Monkey God" popularized by American explorer Theodore Morde who claimed he made the discovery in the same region of Honduras in 1939.
The name of the civilization is still unknown.
"What we do know is that the site covers two cities that were heavily populated," said Paredes.
The pre-Colombian ruins are believed to date from between 1,000 and 1,200 A.D. and were first detected in 2012 using aerial mapping techniques.
Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by David Gregorio