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Archeologists unearth ancient village in an Arizona national park

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[October 11, 2014]  By David Schwartz
 PHOENIX (Reuters) - Archeologists have unearthed a village believed to be about 1,300 years old and containing more than 50 sandstone-walled homes at a U.S. national park in northeastern Arizona, one of the researchers said on Friday.

The discovery was made by a team that surveyed part of the Petrified Forest National Park during the summer and broadly dated the homes and other artifacts found at the site to between 200 AD and 700 AD.

"The ceramics at the site tell us that what we found falls within that time," said Amy Schott, an archeologist who works for the park. "Other similar sites there have been carbon dated and roughly fall within that period."

Surveyors found the first traces of some 50 to 75 buried "pit houses" in sand dunes at the park in June, and they estimate the village could have had as many as 125 inhabitants.

Schott said the homes are believed to have been inhabited during the so-called Basketmaker era, when Native American communities in the area were beginning to grow crops for food and establish settlements.

"Most of these sites you find are small," said Schott, who took part in the project. "This one is so large and interesting because it had so many structures and features all in one spot."

Along with ancient pottery, the researchers also found rudimentary tools made of stone and petrified wood as well as pendants crafted from shells. No human remains were found, Schott said.

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This is the second such large-scale find by archeologists within two years as surveys are carried out as part of an effort to more than double the size of the park. Plans call for the park to grow to 218,500 acres (88,500 hectares) under the Petrified Forest Expansion Act passed by Congress in 2004.

The park, which straddles Arizona's Apache and Navajo counties, is a popular tourist attraction, visited by an average of 600,000 people a year.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Will Dunham)

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