In 2007, Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh economist and archaeology enthusiast, was poking around on Google Earth when he found something strange: an enormous geometric pattern extending over 900 square feet across the ground in Kazakhstan. His interest piqued, Dey would spend the next year discovering 260 more of these mysterious formations, made up of squares, crosses, lines, and rings carved into the earth or constructed with mounds of dirt. But to this day, it’s unclear exactly what the figures are and why they were constructed.
Now, NASA has released satellite photographs of some of the figures open to the public, signaling the beginnings of their involvement into the investigation. The Steppe Geoglyphs, as they’ve been named, are thought to have been constructed to track the movements of the sun. The archived images from NASA add to the extensive research that Dey compiled this year in a PowerPoint lecture translated from Russian to English.
These mysterious designs are more than just interesting artifacts. They’re also forcing researchers to reexamine what we know about early nomads. “The idea that foragers could amass the numbers of people necessary to undertake large-scale projects—like creating the Kazakhstan geoglyphs—has caused archaeologists to deeply rethink the nature and timing of sophisticated large-scale human organization as one that predates settled and civilized societies,” Dr. Clarkson wrote in the New York Times.
[via New York Times]