A geoglyph is a large design or motif (generally longer than 4 metres) produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, live trees,[1] gravel, or earth. A positive geoglyph is formed by the arrangement and alignment of materials on the ground in a manner akin to petroforms, while a negative geoglyph is formed by removing patinated clasts to expose unpatinated ground in a manner akin to petroglyphs.

A variation of the geoglyph, in the form of three-dimensional positive geoglyph, formed by seeding vegetation in a predetermined shape that typically only becomes visible years after the initial planting or seeding, has been named an arborglyph.

Fazenda Colorada
Geoglyphs on deforested land in the Amazon rainforest


Perhaps the most famous geoglyphs are the Nazca lines in Peru. The cultural significance of these geoglyphs for their creators remains unclear, despite many hypotheses.[2] The "Works of the Old Men" in Arabia, "stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older,"[3] have been described as geoglyphs by Amelia Sparavigna, a physics professor at Politecnico di Torino in Italy.[4] The use of this term to describe these features is probably inaccurate, as recent research has shown that most were not constructed primarily as art, but were rather built to serve a range of purposes including burial sites and funerary customs, aiding in the trapping of migratory animals, and as cleared areas for camps, houses and animal enclosures.[5]

Lignes de Nazca Décembre 2006 - Colibri 2
The Nazca Lines in Peru. This photograph taken in December 2006 depicts the hummingbird

Since the 1970s, numerous geoglyphs have been discovered on deforested land in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil, leading to claims about Pre-Columbian civilizations.[6][7][8] Ondemar Dias is accredited with first discovering the geoglyphs in 1977 and Alceu Ranzi with furthering their discovery after flying over Acre.[9][10]

Other areas with geoglyphs include Megaliths in the Urals, South Australia (Marree Man, which is not ancient, but rather a modern work of art, with mysterious origins), Western Australia and parts of the Great Basin Desert in the southwestern United States. Hill figures, turf mazes and the stone-lined labyrinths of Scandinavia, Iceland, Lappland and the former Soviet Union are types of geoglyphs.

More than 50 geoglyphs are found in Kazakhstan.[11]

In the UK are various equine and humanoid figures cut into chalk hillsides. Examples include Uffington White Horse, Westbury White Horse, Cherhill White Horse, Cerne Abbas Giant, and the Long Man of Wilmington.


You Yangs Bunjil geoglyph
Bunjil geoglyph at the You Yangs, Lara, Australia, by Andrew Rogers. The creature has a wingspan of 100 metres and 1,500 tonnes of rock were used to construct it.

Not all geoglyphs are ancient. The Land Art movement created many new geoglyphs as well as other structures; perhaps the most famous example is Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson. Many towns and cities in the Western United States use hillside letters (also known as "mountain monograms") on the hills above their locations. Contemporary Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers has created geoglyphs around the world called "The Rhythms of Life". You Yangs National Park is the home of a geoglyph constructed by Rogers in recognition of the indigenous people of the area. It depicts Bunjil, a mythical creature in the culture of the local Wautharong Aboriginal people.

Chinggis Khan hillside portrait
Portrait of Genghis Khan painted onto cleared areas of Mt. Bogd Khan in Mongolia in 2006.

Geoglyphic texts and images are common in Central and Inner Asia but there has been little systematic study of their origins and spread.

In 2008–2009 Alfie Dennen created Britglyph, a locative art focused Geoglyph created by having participants across the United Kingdom leave rocks at highly specific locations and uploading media created at each location. When taken together and viewed on the main project website an image of a watch and chain inspired by John Harrison's marine chronometer H5 was created.[12]

People have used the Strava mobile app to create Strava art, virtual geoglyphs.

Geoglyphs in the world

Country Geoglyph
 Israel Geoglyphs of Har Karkom[13]
 England Uffington White Horse
Westbury White Horse
Cerne Abbas Giant
Long Man of Wilmington
Pewsey White Horse
 United States Gila River Valley
Great Serpent Mound
Blythe Intaglios
 Peru Nazca Lines
Paracas Candelabra
 Chile Atacama Giant
 Bolivia Sajama Lines
 Australia Marree Man
Readymix logo geoglyph
Bunjil Geoglyph

See also


  1. ^ ru:Надписи из деревьев
  2. ^ New Technologies for Archaeology: Multidisciplinary Investigations in Palpa and Nasca, Peru, Natural science in archaeology, page 50, Markus Reindel, Günther A. Wagner, Springer Verlag, 2009. ISBN 978-3-540-87437-9
  3. ^ Professor David Kennedy, quoted by Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor. "Visible Only From Above, Mystifying 'Nazca Lines' Discovered in Mideast", MSNBC (via LiveScience), 9/15/2011
  4. ^ Amelia Sparavigna, quoted by Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor. "Visible Only From Above, Mystifying 'Nazca Lines' Discovered in Mideast", MSNBC (via LiveScience), 9/15/2011
  5. ^ Kennedy, David (2011). "The "Works of the Old Men" in Arabia: remote sensing in interior Arabia". Journal of Archaeological Science. 38 (12): 3185–3203. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.05.027.
  6. ^ Simon Romero (January 14, 2012). "Once Hidden by Forest, Carvings in Land Attest to Amazon's Lost World". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Amazon Jungle geoglyphs in Portuguese
  8. ^ Martti Pärssinen, Denise Schaan and Alceu Ranzi (2009). "Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purús: a complex society in western Amazonia". Antiquity. 83 (322): 1084–1095. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00099373.
  9. ^ Junior, Gonçalo (October 2008). "Amazonia lost and found". Pesquisa (ed.220). FAPESP.
  10. ^ "Unnatural Histories – Amazon". BBC Four.
  11. ^ "Mysterious Ancient Geoglyphs Discovered In Kazakhstan Leave Archeologists Perplexed". IFLScience.
  12. ^ Dennen, Alfie (2009-03-11). "Britglyph". Moblog. Archived from the original on 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  13. ^ "The geoglyphs of Har Karkom (Negev, Israel): classification and interpretation" (PDF). Retrieved 30 July 2018.

External links

Atacama Giant

The Atacama Giant (Spanish: Gigante de Atacama) is an anthropomorphic geoglyph on Cerro Unitas in the Atacama Desert, Chile. It is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world with a length of 119 metres (390 ft), and represented a deity for the local inhabitants from AD 1000 to 1400.

The figure was an early astronomical calendar for knowing where the moon would set; by knowing this the day, crop cycle, and season could be determined. The points on the top and side of the head would say what season it would be depending on their alignment with the moon, which was important in determining when the rainy season would come in the barren Atacama.

The Atacama Giant is one out of nearly 5,000 geoglyphs - ancient artwork that is drawn into the landscape - that have been discovered in the Atacama in the last three decades. It is believed that they are the work of several successive cultures that dwelt in this region of South America, including the Tiwanaku and Inca.

Battalion Park

Battalion Park is a geoglyph site in southwest Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It is located on Signal Hill, overlooking the Sarcee Nation, as well as lands formerly known as Camp Sarcee and later Sarcee Training Area, a military reserve used by the Canadian Forces from before the First World War up until the 1990s. The park extends over an area of 93 hectares (230 acres), north of the Elbow River. Its heritage value is associated with its dedication to the heroic efforts of Albertan soldiers during the First World War. The site contains four geoglyphs, numbered 137, 113, 151, and 51. The large, whitewashed stones, totalling 16,000 in all, form the centrepiece of the park. Arranged on the side of the hill, and visible from various parts of the city, they represent the battalions numbered 137th, 113th, 151st, and 51st.


Britglyph was a collaborative locative art and geoglyph project created by Alfie Dennen for ShoZu which took place between December 2008 and March 2009. Participants were instructed to travel to specific locations across the United Kingdom with a rock or stone taken from near where they live. Once at the designated spot, the participants would capture a photograph or video of themselves and the rock and upload that to the main website, leaving the rock at the location. As these media were added to the main site, the image of a watch and chain inspired by John Harrison's marine chronometer H5 was drawn on the main project website, with the rocks creating a geoglyph on the Earth's surface.


Caral, or Caral-Chupacigarro, was a large settlement in the Supe Valley, near Supe, Barranca Province, Peru, some 200 kilometres (120 mi) north of Lima. Caral is the most ancient city of the Americas and a well-studied site of the Norte Chico civilization.

The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Hill figure

A hill figure is a large visual representation created by cutting into a steep hillside and revealing the underlying geology. It is a type of geoglyph usually designed to be seen from afar rather than above. In some cases trenches are dug and rubble made from material brighter than the natural bedrock is placed into them. The new material is often chalk, a soft and white form of limestone, leading to the alternative name of chalk figure for this form of art.

Hill figures cut in grass are a phenomenon especially seen in England, where examples include the Cerne Abbas Giant, the Uffington White Horse, the Long Man of Wilmington, as well as the "lost" carvings at Cambridge, Oxford and Plymouth Hoe. From the 18th century onwards, many further ones were added. Many figures long thought to be ancient have been found to be relatively recent when subjected to modern archaeological scrutiny, at least in their current form. Only the Uffington White Horse appears to retain a prehistoric shape, while the Cerne Abbas Giant may be prehistoric, Romano-British, or Early Modern. Nevertheless, these figures, and their possible lost companions, have been iconic in the English people's conception of their past.

Hillside letters

Hillside letters or mountain monograms are a form of geoglyph (more specifically hill figures) common in the American West, consisting of large single letters, abbreviations, or messages emblazoned on hillsides, typically created and maintained by schools or towns. There are approximately 500 of these geoglyphs, ranging in size from a few feet to hundreds of feet tall. They form an important part of the western cultural landscape, where they function as symbols of school pride and civic identity, similar to water towers and town slogans on highway "welcome to" signs in other regions.

Hotel Paracas

Hotel Paracas, or the Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort is a five star luxury hotel and resort located in near Pisco, Peru, 240 kilometres south of Lima. The hotel was established in 1944 by Emilio Guimoye and is a luxury resort surrounded by desert at Paracas Bay on the Pacific coast. It has 120 rooms, two pools, a lounge bar, three restaurants and a spa.The bay, once home to the Paracas culture, is a natural reserve lined with wild beaches and sheltering large populations of sea lions, Humboldt penguins and sea otters.

From the hotel’s private dock, boat excursions set out across the bay, offering a view of the ancient geoglyph, The Candelabra, before heading on to the Ballestas Islands home to numerous colonies of local birds and sea mammals.

Marree Man

The Marree Man, or Stuart's Giant, is a modern geoglyph the circumstances of whose creation have not been ascertained. It appears to depict an indigenous Australian man hunting with a boomerang or stick. It lies on a plateau at Finnis Springs 60 km (37 mi) west of the township of Marree in central South Australia. It is just outside the 127,000-square-kilometre (49,000 sq mi) Woomera Prohibited Area. The figure is 2.7 km (1.7 mi) tall with a perimeter of 28 km (17 mi), extending over an area of about 2.5 km2 (620 acres). Although it is one of the largest geoglyphs in the world (arguably second to the Sajama Lines), its origin remains a mystery, with no one claiming responsibility for its creation nor any eye-witness having been found, notwithstanding the scale of the operation required to form the outline on the plateau floor. The description "Stuart's Giant" was used in anonymous faxes sent to media as "Press Releases" in July 1998, in a reference to the explorer John McDouall Stuart. It was discovered fortuitously by a charter pilot in an overflight on 26 June 1998.

Shortly after its discovery, the site was closed by the South Australian government following legal action taken in late July by native title claimants, but flights over the site were not forbidden as native title fell under federal government jurisdiction.

Megaliths in the Urals

In recent years, many megaliths have been discovered in the Urals: dolmens, menhirs and a large megalithic cultic complex on Vera Island.

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are a group of very large geoglyphs formed by depressions or shallow incisions made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were created between 500 BC and 500 AD.Most lines run straight across the landscape, but there are also figurative designs of animals and plants, made up of lines. The individual figurative geoglyph designs measure between 0.4 and 1.1 km (.2 and .7 mi) across. The combined length of all the lines is over 1,300 km (808 mi), and the group cover an area of about 50 sq km (19 sq mi). The lines are typically 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) deep. They were made by removing the top layer of reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles to reveal a yellow-grey subsoil. The width of the lines varies considerably, but over half are slightly over one-third meter (just over 1 foot) wide. In some places they may be only a foot (30.5 cm) wide, and in others reach 6 feet (1.8 m) wide.Some of the Nazca lines form shapes that are best seen from the air (~1,500 ft, 457 m), though they are visible from the surrounding foothills and other high places. The shapes are usually made from one continuous line. The largest ones are about 370 m (1,200 ft) long. Because of its isolation and the dry, windless, stable climate of the plateau, the lines have mostly been preserved naturally. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of 2012, the lines are said to have been deteriorating because of an influx of squatters inhabiting the lands.The figures vary in complexity. Hundreds are simple lines and geometric shapes; more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of animals such as a hummingbird, spider, fish, llama, jaguar, monkey, lizard, dog and a human. Other shapes include trees and flowers. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general, they ascribe religious significance to them. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Paracas Candelabra

The Paracas Candelabra, also called the Candelabra of the Andes, is a well-known prehistoric geoglyph found on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula at Pisco Bay in Peru. Pottery found nearby has been radio carbon dated to 200 BCE, the time of the Paracas culture. The design is cut two feet into the soil, with stones possibly from a later date placed around it. The figure is 595 feet (181 meters) tall, large enough to be seen 12 miles at sea.

A variety of popular myths have arisen: one attributes it to José de San Martín; another suggests it is a Masonic symbol (see Freemasonry); and yet another that sailors created it as a sign which they could view at sea for landfall. Some believe it represents the motif known as a Mesoamerican world tree.

Paracas Peninsula

The Paracas Peninsula is a desert peninsula within the boundaries of the Paracas National Reserve, a marine reserve which extends south along the coast. The only marine reserve in Peru, it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.The peninsula is located within the Paracas District of the Pisco Province in the Ica Region, on the south coast of Peru. This unusual peninsula may be best known for the Paracas Candelabra, a prehistoric geoglyph nearly 600 feet (183 m) tall on the north face of the peninsula ridge. Pottery nearby was dated to 200 BCE, placing it within the Paracas culture. Its origins and purpose have inspired many theories.

A shipping port was built along the northern peninsula, where deeper water permits larger transport and cruise ships to anchor. Tourists can have access to the Paracas National Reserve, a large marine reserve, while the ships are protected against ocean waves and currents. The peninsula includes red sand beaches formed from sands eroded from nearby cliffs.

The port is reached by a single road from the mainland, that goes through the Paracas National Reserve. The Centre Museum, also called the Paracas Museum, holds several ancient artifacts from the Paracas Culture. It also provides detailed information and interpretation about the flora and fauna native to the Reservation, including the many varieties of birds of Paracas.

Readymix logo geoglyph

The Readymix logo geoglyph is a large geoglyph of the Readymix logo carved into the ground of the Nullarbor Plain about 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north west of Caiguna, Western Australia. At the time of its creation the Readymix logo geoglyph was the largest such signage of its kind, and appeared in the Guinness Book of Records between 1972 and 1991, first as the world's largest advertising sign and, later, as the world's largest letters. The 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) wide, 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) tall logo consists of the words "READYMIX" surrounded by a diamond. Each letter is 240 metres (790 ft) high by 180 metres (590 ft) wide, with a line thickness of 12 metres (39 ft).

Russian geoglyph

The Russian geoglyph refers to a geoglyph on slopes of the Zyuratkul Mountains in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia.

Steppe Geoglyphs

The Steppe Geoglyphs are a number of earth constructions in the Turgai Trough area of Turgai in northern Kazakhstan. There are at least 260 of these earthworks.


Urpek is a village in Amangeldi District of Kostanay Region, northern Kazakhstan.

You Yangs

The You Yangs are a series of granite ridges that rise to 319m (Flinders Peak) above the Werribee Plain approximately 55 km south-west of Melbourne and 22 km north-east of Geelong, in Victoria, Australia. The main ridge runs roughly north–south for about 9 km, with a lower extension running for about 15 km to the west. Much of the southern parts of the ranges are protected by the You Yangs Regional Park.

Although only 319 m at their highest, they dominate the landscape and are clearly identifiable from nearby Geelong, Melbourne and beyond. Camping is not permitted in the You Yangs. The foothills to the north of the peaks are home to Ford Australia's proving ground.The You Yangs are also the home of a geoglyph constructed by the Australian artist Andrew Rogers in recognition of the indigenous people of the area. It depicts Bunjil, a mythical creature to the local Wathaurong Aboriginals. This geoglyph has a wing span of 100 metres and 1500 tonnes of rock was used to construct it, and was unveiled in March 2006.

Yuha Desert

The Yuha Desert is a section of the Sonoran Desert located in the Imperial Valley of California; south of Interstate 8, west of El Centro, and north of the international border.

Unique aspects of the Yuha Desert include the Oyster Shell Beds, De Anza Historical Monument, Crucifixion Thorn Natural Area, and the Yuha geoglyph. It is the homeland of the Kamia, also spelled Kumeyaay, and may have been used by other Native American groups such as the Cahuilla, Quechan, and Cocopah Native American people.

The Yuha Desert is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Bureau of Land Management and is managed by the agency as a limited use area for biologic and archaeological resource conservation. The primary species of concern is the flat-tailed horned lizard. Off highway vehicles are limited to signed routes to protect both the flat-tail horned lizard habitat and the archaeological resources including prehistoric campsites and lithic reduction sites along the former edges of Lake Cahuilla, as well as sites representing the use of the region within the historic era.

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