“Savages Never Carved These Stones”

Magnificent Central American ruins, overgrown by the thickening jungle, testify to a sophisticated culture already ancient when Columbus sailed

On the afternoon of November 17, 1839, John Lloyd Stephens, a red-bearded New York lawyer, and Frederick Catherwood, an English artist, hacked their way through a jungle in Honduras and emerged at the edge of a broad river. Facing them across the wide ribbon of water was an ancient and massive stone wall, looming up a hundred feet out of the bush. As they crossed the river and explored the surroundings, they discovered stone altars, mysterious hieroglyphics, and giant idols richly carved; it was clear that they had come upon the ruins of an ancient city.