November 23, 2020

Geoscientists Discover Ancestral Puebloans Survived Droughts From New Mexico Lava Tubes

A team of researchers at El Pais National Monument used radio carbon dating on charcoal found in an ice deposit in a lava tube. They found that Ancestral Puebloans survived drought by traveling into the caves to melt ancient ice.

This was done between 150-950 CE.  They started small fires to melt the ice. The researchers  found clear evidence of five drought events.

The researchers focused on one lava tube, and this site is the earliest found so far for water harvesting in the Southwest. The tube is 171 meters long and 14 meters in depth. The fires they started left behind charcoal and ash deposits that is good for dating.

Researchers are soon going to lose data due to global warming melting the ice in the caves.

Below are the individuals and organizations who took part in the study, showing how international modern archaeology has become on these kinds of projects.

Joining in the exploration and research were Dylan S. Parmenter, whose master’s degree at USF was on the topic and is now a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, Steven M. Baumann and Eric Weaver of the National Park Service, and Tiberiu B. Sava of the Horia Hulubei National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Engineering in Romania. The research was funded by the National Park Service and the National Science Foundation.

The research was published in Scientific Reports;

Science Daily has the report here;

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