Arenal, Costa Rica
Chaco Canyon, NM
The Peten, Guatemala
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
The Chaco Canyon Research Center had done aerial photography and a ground
survey. This was the beginning of an archeological database, to which, we
proposed to add thermal infrared multispectral data. If our sensors could
locate prehistoric features, this would prove that using remote sensing
technology could work for archeology.
Thermal Infrared Multispectral Scanner (TIMS) was flown by NASA over Chaco
Canyon for the first time in spring of 1982. TIMS measures temperature differences
near the ground, it has five meter resolution. Prehistoric
roads from 900 or 1000 AD were detected. The roads could not be discerned
by the naked eye from ground level. They also could not be seen in either
aerial photography or color infrared photographs. Three more flights over
Chaco detected over 200 miles of a prehistoric roadway system, as well as
prehistoric walls, buildings, and agricultural
fields. It may be that Chaco Canyon was a social and religious center. People
were coming exchanging ideas, practicing ritualistic activities, such as
breaking pottery, and then returning to whence they came.
Why were the Chaco roads designed with exacting linearity, which surmounted
any topographic obstruction, built to a width of 20 feet or more, and constructed
by people who did not even employ beast of burden in their lives?
The Chacoan roadway system was an impressive accomplishment that facilitated
widespread movement and participation in religious activities. They connected
the people along the periphery of the San Juan Basin and beyond to sacred
places upon the landscape, to outlier sites, and ultimately to Chaco Canyon
"Analysis of Prehistoric Roadways in Chaco Canyon Using Remotely Sensed
Digital Data," with D. Wagner. In C. Trombold's (Ed.) Ancient Road
Networks and Settlement Hierarchies in the New World. Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, 1991.
"Remote Sensing Applications in Archeological Research: Tracing Prehistoric
Human Impact Upon the Environment," Doctoral Dissertation, University of
Colorado. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor Michigan, 1990.
Responsible Official: Dr. James L. Smoot (James.L.Smoot@nasa.gov)
Page Author: Tom Sever
Page Curator: Diane Samuelson (email@example.com)