They’re invisible from the ground. But from the air, these stone structures materialize, forming strange wheel-like patterns. What are these ancient “geoglyphs” that stretch across the Middle East?
What are Geoglyphs?
Geoglyphs are large ground-based drawings. They’re formed by either placing or removing stones, gravel, or earth. While nearly impossible to see from up close, the resulting lines form amazing images when viewed from aircraft.
The most famous geoglyphs in the world are found in southern Peru’s Nazca Desert. But the Middle East has its own version of the “Nazca Lines.” They first gained some prominence during the 1920s. As Royal Air Force pilots flew airmail routes over Jordan, they noticed strange designs far below them. According to RAF Flight Lt. Percy Maitland, the stone structures were known among the locals as the “Works of the Old Men.”
Recently, a team led by Professor David Kennedy from the University of Western Australia conducted a “long-term aerial reconnaissance project” of the Middle East. Using aerial photography and satellite-mapping technologies, they identified thousands of geoglyphs scattered across the region.
These geoglyphs take the form of “wheels” with diameters ranging from 82 to 230 feet. They’re often found on lava beds near other stone structures such as “kites (stone structures used for funnelling and killing animals); pendants (lines of stone cairns that run from burials); and walls, mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet and have no apparent practical use.”
The wheels remain unexcavated but researchers believe that they may have been created more than 2,000 years ago.
“In Jordan alone we’ve got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older.” ~ Professor David Kennedy
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
So, what was the purpose of these strange structures? In the past, archaeologists thought they were remnants of ancient houses or cemeteries. But Professor Kennedy disagrees, due to the widespread nature of the wheels as well as the lack of a consistent pattern.
One interesting suggestion is that the wheels represented places of worship or ritual. But until excavations are initiated, it’s impossible to be sure.