Archaeologists discover hidden architecture of 1,000-Year-Old Village in New Mexico
Buried under a thousand years’ worth of sand and stone, Blue J is an ancient Puebloan settlement in New Mexico, which is only just beginning to reveal its secrets. For more than four decades, archaeologists have been gradually revealing the remains of houses, plazas and other buildings in a construction dating back to the 11 th century. But thanks to advancing technology, new information about the settlement has just been brought to light, revealing that the settlement was much larger and more influential than previously thought.
The Ancient Pueblo peoples or Ancestral Pueblo peoples were an ancient Native American culture who inhabited southern Utah, north-eastern Arizona, northern New Mexico, and south-western Colorado. They lived in a range of structures, including pit houses, pueblos, and cliff dwellings designed so that they could lift entry ladders during enemy attacks, which provided security. Archaeologists referred to one of these cultural groups as the Anasazi, although the term is not preferred by contemporary Pueblo peoples. They are particularly well known for their remarkable cliff houses in Mesa Verde National Park.
Cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park. Photo source: Wikipedia
The Blue J settlement, which is still almost entirely unexcavated, lies just 70 kilometres south of Chaco Canyon , which hosts the most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. Constructions in Chaco Canyon soared to four or five stories and contained up to seven hundred rooms and dozens of kivas (rooms used for ceremonial purposes). Often built along celestial alignments, they included water-collection systems and were linked to outlying communities by an extensive network of roads. These elaborate buildings evidence a sophisticated and highly organized culture, with Chaco Canyon at its centre.
Chaco Canyon. Photo source .
Against the backdrop of incredible feats of engineering seen in Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park, the Blue J settlement is a bit of an enigma. It does not display any of the monumental and ceremonial architecture that one would expect to find in a Puebloan settlement. To date, researchers have uncovered around 60 houses, situation around a series of open plazas, but no traces have been found of multi-storey buildings, or subterranean kivas.
However, new research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science conducted via a remote-controlled drone equipped with infrared sensors enabled researchers to catch a glimpse of what lies beneath the desert floor… and they were pleasantly surprised. Dr John Kantner, an archaeologists with the University of North Florida, and colleagues, discovered new features at Blue J which may reshape perspectives about the size, scope, and cultural affiliations of the Blue J community.
“The drone work was able to show us that at least some of the sites are much larger below the surface than can be seen on the surface,” said Kantner. “The drone identified at least one circular, buried anomaly that is almost exactly the right size for a great kiva.”
According to Kanter, the discovery of a kiva or multiple kivas would have the biggest implications over any other discovery, as evidence of a Chacoan religious structure would suggest that Blue J was within Chaco Canyon’s cultural sphere of influence. “If it is indeed a great kiva, I’ll have to change my interpretation of how villages like Blue J interacted with Chaco Canyon,” he said.
Featured image: A wall of a Pueblo settlement in New Mexico. Photo source .