Archaeologists turn to drones to unearth details about New Mexico’s Chaco culture

Robotics

Archaeologists used a drone to snap this aerial view of the Blue J area in northwestern New Mexico in June 2013. (University of North Florida Office of Research)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Recently published research describes how archaeologists outfitted a customized drone with a heat-sensing camera to unearth what they believe are ceremonial pits and other features at the site of an ancient village in New Mexico.

The discovery of the structures hidden beneath layers of sediment and sagebrush is being hailed as an important step that could help archaeologists shed light on mysteries long buried by eroding desert landscapes from the American Southwest to the Middle East. The results of the research were published earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Since the 1970s, archaeologists have known that aerial images of thermal infrared wavelengths of light could be a powerful tool for spotting cultural remains on the…

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