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Aerial Archaeology in Mexico

Prehistoric Aztec painting

The 1995 Casas Grandes/Cerros de Trincheras Aerial Photo Expedition

Aerial Reconnaissance and Photography of Some Prehistoric Mexican archaeological sites in the Casas Grandes area, September 1995

In September of 1995 archaeologists John Roney and Rudi Benskin teamed up with Tom Baker and Ben Benjamin to fly an airplane across the U.S. Border into northern Mexico, for the purpose of photographing some archaeological sites in the Casas Grandes area. A number of "cerros de trincheras" ("entrenched mountains") of which John Roney has undertaken a survey, as well as the famous ruins of Casas Grandes (Paquime) near the modern town of the same name, were photographed. A brief aerial reconnaissance an adjacent valley also revealed a large number of buried prehistoric sites.

The cerros de trincheras sites, some of which may date back thousands of years, are modified hills with what appear to be defensive earthworks and stone walls on their flanks and crests, though some of the features may be agricultural terracing. Casas Grandes is a large late prehistoric ruin (circa 1050-1340 AD) that may have cultural or trade links to Chaco Canyon in the American Southwest, and has ancient roads similar to Chaco's leading from it to other sites in the area.

Reflecting the speed and mobility of aircraft, the aerial photo project took only 3 days, and resulted in the photography of eight known trincheras sites, plus a new one found from the air, as well as the ruins of Casas Grandes and other sites of that era. A short exploratory flight southward down the Rio Casas Grandes, along eastern face of the Sierra Madres, revealed large number of buried prehistoric sites, some with what appeared to be ballcourts of the Casas Grandes type, as well as agricultural features.

Map showing distribution of Cerros de Trincheras sites (20K)

View Aerial Photos of three Cerros de Trincheras sites

More information about the Mexico aerial expedition

John Roney on Cerros de Trincheras sites, with aerial photos.

Cerros de Trincheras: prehistoric farms, forts, or fortified farms? - Tom Baker

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