UNF professor uncovers ruins of ancient city in New Mexico

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One University of North Florida Professor is gaining national attention for finding ruins of an ancient city far from Florida.

Since 1970, archaeologists have been looking for traces of an ancient Puebloan settlement in New Mexico, just south of Chaco Canyon. It is a desert land they call, Blue J.

With the help of a small, remote-controlled drone, a team of archaeologists uncovered 60 households beneath eroded stone and wind-blown sand. The drone uses a heat-sensing camera to identify structures beneath the earth's surface.

"Using any other technique would have taken years of work because there is no where to find [the structures] and no way to look beneath the surface," said UNF professor Dr. John Kantner.

Dr. Kantner used the drone to uncover a village 1,000 years old. It was once the cultural and religious center of the ancient Puebloan society that dates back to the 11th century.

"We were able to find great buildings that we weren't able to see on the ground," said Kantner. "And then, what I am most excited about, are the kivas."

Kivas are large man-made structures that were used for ceremonial activities, worship and decision-making.

"Religion and their secular lives were completely intertwined," said Kantner. "So, if you can't find that religious component, you are really missing the religious part, and everything that really took place in their lives."

Kantner said this research allows archaeologists to peer under the surface, giving us a glimpse of what came before us. In this case, a glimpse at how hundreds of people lived in New Mexico.

Archaeologists have been talking about using thermal imaging technology to probe ancient sites for years, but the drones have proved to be difficult. Often times, archaeologists struggle to keep the drones in the air for a long period of time. However, Kantner and his team were successful and now, they are hoping to use their drone for more discoveries in the future.

"After a few false starts, we sort of mastered the technology and sort of mastered the technique that allowed us to do this effectively."


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