Drone exploration discovers large Native American settlement from 1600s

The bird’s eye view from drones gives us a unique perspective on our world. A drone flying over a cattle ranch in Kansas recently made a surprising discovery: the remnants of a large indigenous community built by ancestors of today’s Wichita and Affiliated Tribes

The drone spotted the remnants of a horseshoe-shaped ditch that is over 400 years old. The ditch is part of a larger settlement that scientists suspect to be part of the indigenous community which Spanish colonists called the Great Settlement in 1601. If confirmed, this would be the largest Native American settlement ever established north of Mexico.

The discovered ditch is a 2-meter-wide feature that forms a semicircle about 50 meters across. Similar structures have been found in 22 ancestral Wichita sites and the circles are believed to have been used for either ritual ceremonies, houses of social elites, or protection from attackers. 

The drone flight was conducted after anthropological archaeologist Donald Blakeslee of Wichita State University uncovered ancestral Wichita objects such as stone tools and cooking utensils as well as 17th-century Spanish items on a family cattle ranch nearby in southeastern Kansas. 

Unfortunately, drone footage cannot reveal the entire archeological history of an area, so Blakeslee plans to explore features of the Kansas site with additional remote sensing techniques to assess the site’s age and history. This is a great example of how modern technology can advance our understanding of the history of human civilization. 

Image source: Science News

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