Thursday, January 04, 2007

CU-Boulder tracks movements of ancient Central Americans using satellites, video-game technology
Satellite imagery meshed with video-game technology is allowing University of Colorado at Boulder and NASA researchers to virtually "fly" along footpaths used by Central Americans 2,000 years ago on spiritual pilgrimages to ancestral cemeteries.

The effort has allowed researchers to trace the movements of ancient people in the Arenal region of present-day Costa Rica, who used single-file paths to navigate rugged terrain between small villages and cemeteries over the centuries, said CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets. The repeated use of the footpaths caused erosion resulting in narrow trenches in the landscape up to 10 feet deep.

The evidence now indicates people re-used the same processional routes for more than 1,000 years, returning to them despite periodic abandonment of villages caused by recurring violent eruptions of the nearby Arenal Volcano, he said. Sheets gave a presentation on the subject at the 2nd International Conference on Remote Sensing in Archaeology held in Rome from Dec. 4 to Dec. 7.