Archaeologists have discovered previously unseen structures at an ancient Native American settlement in northwestern New Mexico with the help of an unmanned aerial system (UAS).
The researchers flew an eight-rotor CineStar 8 over the site of a 1,000-year-old village called Blue J to capture thermal images of what was beneath the desert floor, according to an article by Live Science. Only limited studies of the Blue J ruins have been conducted, as the site is obscured by vegetation and buried in eroded sandstone.
The thermal images obtained by the UAS revealed stone compounds that had not yet been identified. For instance, the archaeologists may have found a kiva – that is, a large, circular, underground structure used for public gatherings and ceremonies. The finding would be significant because Blue J had been thought to lack kivas, which are the hallmarks of neighboring sites.
Although archaeologists have long been aware of the value in using thermal-imaging technology to investigate ancient sites, the method had hitherto been prohibitively expensive. Deploying a UAS helps reduce the cost.
In order to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's ban on commercial drone operations in U.S. airspace, the archaeologists used student volunteers to fly the aircraft as hobbyists.
Read the full Live Science article here.