NASA Gives Best Look at Mysterious Geoglyphs

Some are absolutely massive and thousands of years old
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2015 2:31 PM CDT
NASA Gives Best Look at Mysterious Geoglyphs
Ushtogaysky Square, one of 260 geoglyphs discovered in Kazakhstan, as seen from a NASA satellite. Each side of the man-made earthwork is as long as an aircraft carrier.   (NASA)

Archaeology enthusiast Dmitriy Dey was watching a television program on pyramids when he decided such things should exist in his native Kazakhstan, as well. The New York Times reports he hopped onto Google Earth to look around a little and stumbled across what could prove to be the oldest earthworks ever discovered. Two weeks ago—eight years after Dey made his discovery—NASA released the first satellite images of the 260 or so mounds, banks, and trenches that populate a remote area of the country. According to Quartz, the largest of these man-made geometric figures is called the Ushtogaysky Square. It's 810,000 square feet with each side measuring as long as an aircraft carrier. “I’ve never seen anything like this," one NASA scientist tells the Times. "I found it remarkable."

Kazakhstan has shown little interest in studying what are now called the Steppe Geoglyphs since Dey discovered them in 2007, the Times reports. In fact, so little had been published about the discovery that a professor looking into them thought they must be a hoax, according to the Telegraph. That's starting to change. The Times reports initial research into the earthworks reveals the oldest to be about 8,000 years old. If that's true, it would be the oldest ever found. Dey believes they could have been built by Stone Age tribes living in the region, which would challenge scientific assumptions on early nomadic peoples. Tribes would have to have been larger, better organized, and more stationary than previously thought. Dey is now hoping to set up a base from which to study the geoglyphs, and NASA has requested photos of the area from astronauts. (One geoglyph found in Kazakhstan is in the shape of a swastika.)

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