Drone images uncover 1,000-year-old NM village

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Drones have helped archeologists uncover a 1,000-year-old village in northwestern New Mexico. Using thermal imagery, researchers can now see what lies beneath a landscape covered in dirt and vegetation, giving them a unique insight into who lived there, and what it was like 1,000 years ago.

With a small remote-controlled drone equipped with thermal technology, archeologists were able to see underneath the dry New Mexican desert, the remains of a 1,000-year-old village in northwestern New Mexico.

“Really just a few days work allowed us to do something which would have taken a decade of work, if we were to actually be trying to excavate this entire area for example,” explained Dr. John Kantner, Archeologist with the University of North Florida.

Kantner said he’s studied the landscape south of Chaco Canyon for decades, and knew there were homes from pueblo ancestors in an area now called, Blue J.

But with thermal imagery, he and a team found even more. “We were able to find rooms, we think we were able to find as I mentioned before at least one kiva that was below the surface,” said Kantner. He said one of the most interesting discoveries is the possible kiva, a ceremonial structure where people would meet for worship and decision-making.

“That really shapes your interpretation of what their lives were like, so for me its very excited that we may have actually been able to, using this technology, identify these features below the surface,” said Kantner.

The images help guide continued research into the past, where they estimate hundreds of people once lived. “If you drive down Interstate 40, you have to imagine that 1,000 years ago, it actually was a pretty packed landscape,” explained Kantner.

The new technique gives archaeologists a way to piece together what remains of those who came before us. Archaeologists will now work to verify what the drone images captured beneath the surface. They plan on using the same method to research other areas, such as Saudi Arabia, where temperatures vary greatly from day to night, like the do in New Mexico.

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