Who created these huge, mysterious wheel patterns in the Mideast thousands of years ago?

Illustration for article titled Who created these huge, mysterious wheel patterns in the Mideast thousands of years ago?

Called geoglyphs, these strange circular patterns etched into the rocky sands from Saudi Arabia to Syria have no known meaning or origin. Though archaeologists say they likely date back over 2,000 years, there are no records of who made them, nor why they would make such elaborate patterns that can only be appreciated from the air.

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Recently, archaeologist David Kennedy and his team undertook a study of these wheels, known since airplane pilots began flying over them and taking pictures in the early twentieth century. Now, using the old photos from pilots and satellite data from Google Earth, Kennedy has surveyed thousands of images of the structures — and found no explanation for them.

According to Live Science:

Kennedy's new research . . . reveals that these wheels form part of a variety of stone landscapes. These include 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 . . . "There seems to be some overarching cultural continuum in this area in which people felt there was a need to build structures that were circular."

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Illustration for article titled Who created these huge, mysterious wheel patterns in the Mideast thousands of years ago?

Some of the wheels are found in isolation while others are clustered together. At one location, near the Azraq Oasis, hundreds of them can be found clustered into a dozen groups . . . In Saudi Arabia, Kennedy's team has found wheel styles that are quite different: Some are rectangular and are not wheels at all; others are circular but contain two spokes forming a bar often aligned in the same direction that the sun rises and sets in the Middle East.

The ones in Jordan and Syria, on the other hand, have numerous spokes and do not seem to be aligned with any astronomical phenomena. "On looking at large numbers of these, over a number of years, I wasn't struck by any pattern in the way in which the spokes were laid out," Kennedy said.

Illustration for article titled Who created these huge, mysterious wheel patterns in the Mideast thousands of years ago?

From the ground the wheels aren't particularly notable. They look like rock patterns, but it's hard to see exactly what their shapes might be.

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Illustration for article titled Who created these huge, mysterious wheel patterns in the Mideast thousands of years ago?

It's only when you see them from above that you realize how carefully they've been crafted, and designed well enough to endure for millennia. Were they for astrological events, or honoring the dead? Without more evidence, Kennedy says it's impossible to say. Other researchers have compared them to the Nazca Lines in Peru — vast etchings in rock that can only be appreciated from above. Structures like this are what have led some to imagine that aliens visited Earth thousands of years ago, inspiring humans to create art that could only be appreciated from flying ships.

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Read more via Live Science

Images via AAPME

(Thanks for the tip, Lassus!)

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DaveFraser
Discodave: R.O.A.C.H. M.O.T.E.L.

Archaeologists studying them in the pre-Google Earth era speculated that they could be the remains of houses or cemeteries. Kennedy said that neither of these explanations seems to work out well.

"There seems to be some overarching cultural continuum in this area in which people felt there was a need to build structures that were circular."

I don't know - it sounds pretty likely that these are the remains of dwellings or burial sites - they look very similar to iron age enclosures all over Europe with cattle pens, enclosures and the footprints of buildings.

Seeing as many ancient dwellings took circular forms and they're not particularly suggestive of anything else (or each other, from region to region), I think comparing them to the Nazca lines is a bit of a stretch.

It reminds me of the guy who claimed that the pyramids were laid out according to the plans of constellations. Does Kennedy have a book to pimp?