NASA Releases Images of Enigmatic Ancient Earthworks


NASA imagery is shedding new light on a set of ancient earthworks that date back 8000 years. The geometric figures crossed into the steppe in northern Kazakhstan, called the Steppe Geoglyphs, include at least 260 raised mounds of dirt only visible from high above. Geoglyphs are designs or motifs etched into the landscape, like those previously discovered in the deserts of Peru.

Because the shapes drawn into the ground are so subtle, they were only discovered in 2007 by an archaeology enthusiast on Google Earth. Now, Earth observation images from NASA taken 430 miles above the ground by the contractor DigitalGlobe might spark further research into the mysterious mounds in Kazakhstan’s Turgai region.

Located near a Neolithic settlement, one is a large square (more than 900 feet on each side) made up of 101 raised mounds with diagonal lines of mounds crisscrossing its center. Another looks a bit like a swastika—a symbol that despite its modern connotations, has been used by ancient religions for at least 10,000 years. 

International Space Station astronauts have now been tasked with photographing the region from orbit, though the crew might not get around to it very soon. While archaeologists still haven’t nailed down who exactly made the structures, the mounds could give us deeper insight into the cultures of Stone Age tribes.  

[h/t: The New York Times]

All images © DigitalGlobe, Inc. 2014, Licensed under NextView