In DepthArchaeology

Drilling threatens ancient Chaco landscape

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Science  18 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6390, pp. 693-694
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6390.693

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About 1000 years ago, indigenous people built an elaborate network of great houses, kivas, and grand roads centered on Chaco Canyon, in the middle of the San Juan Basin of present-day New Mexico. Today, the region is one of the nation's most productive oil and gas basins. It is also the setting of a collision between burgeoning energy development and archaeology. Taking advantage of advances in drilling technology, more than 4000 new wells may be developed in the area in the coming years. Meanwhile, advances in remote sensing are revealing hundreds of previously unknown roads between Puebloan sites. As companies scrape well pads and access roads from the high desert scrub, archaeologists fear they will erase ancient roads before they have been fully studied—or even detected.