The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona may have housed populous villages around 1,300 years ago, according to The Christian Science Monitor.
Nestled in the heart of the park, archeologists have discovered a second ancient village less than a kilometer away from one that was uncovered last summer. Found in July, the recent unearthing dates to between A.D. 200 and A.D. 700 and may have accommodated over 70 individual homes inhabited by ancient Pueblo peoples.
The site contains 50 to 75 “pit house” structures, or semi-subterranean homes, meaning between 100 and 125 people most likely lived in the small community at any one time. Worked into the ground, these dwelling structures are unique to the Southern Colorado Plateau and are rarely found in such high concentrations.
In a statement to the Monitor, park archaeologist Bill Reitz said, “Finding smaller sites is pretty common but to find these larger sites with 50 to 75 structures is more unique. He added, “That’s what makes it interesting and there are some really interesting things to learn.”
Crews at the excavation also found a varied sort of other relics: weathered sandstone artifacts, stone tools, shell ornaments, and ceramics.
“They are primarily stone tools like spear points and scrapers that are made out of the local petrified wood,” Reitz explained. “There’s also some shell that’s used to make ornaments and early pottery.”
The villages were uncovered as a result of the park’s expansion under the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act of 2004, which is set to double the park’s size.
“There are not a lot of national parks that have the opportunity to get bigger like this to protect sites and produce future research,” Reitze told ABC News. “A lot of archaeology happens in response to development. What makes this unique is new sites are discovered, research [is] being done and all these sites are being protected, all at once.”
He added, “Because the park is doubling in size, we are finding something every day — certainly not like these sites, but we are finding things every day.”
Currently, the two recent excavations are not open to the public. However, starting in summer of 2015, news parts of the park will officially open for visitation.
“I think there’s going to be more sites like this in the park,” Reitze hypothesized.