Mauricio Murillo, left, a graduate student from the University of Pittsburg and a native Costa Rica, stands under a tin hut during a rainstorm at a graveyard excavation. The photo also includes, from left to right, CU doctoral student Errin Weller, CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets, Costa Rican assistant Mario Ugalde and CU masters student Michelle Butler. Photo courtesy Payson Sheets, CU-Boulder.
CU-Boulder Professor Payson Sheets, left, is handed a pot sherd from CU doctoral student Errin Weller as CU student Michelle Butler maps the grave site. Photo courtesy Jim Scott, CU-Boulder.
New findings by the University of Colorado at Boulder indicate tiny footpaths traveled by Costa Rican people 1,500 years ago were precursors to wide, deep and ritualistic roadways 500 years later leading to and from cemeteries and villages.
During the past two years, a team of graduate students, NASA archaeologists and remote sensing specialists led by Professor Payson Sheets spent much of their time mapping the small footpaths, many of which are invisible on the ground but visible by satellites. The team noticed portions of some footpaths were worn up to 3 meters deep by people who had trod them over the centuries approaching some of the cemeteries.
"People traveling such a path would see nothing of the cemetery until they actually entered it," said Sheets. "I suspect, inadvertently, this developed into a cultural expectation, a norm, that gained religious importance as the proper way to enter and exit a cemetery."
Payson Sheets | EurekAlert!
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