Google Earth has been the unlikely source of many mysterious discoveries over the years. Today, we add another of such discoveries to that list.

Kazakhstan amateur archeologist, Dmitriy Dey, has discovered enormous unusual geometric figures within aerial images of the desert region of Turgai in northern Kazakhstan known as the Steppe Geoglyphs.  Oddly, they resemble the famous Nazca Lines in Peru. 

Nazca Lines in Peru

Inconveniently, the full scope of these unusual formations are only able to be seen at high altitudes revealing intriguing precise geometric patterns over a large surface area on the ground. From the ground itself, it appears to be just another mundane mound or trench of earth and wood not different from any other. These seemingly run of the mill peaks and valleys actually form 90 to 400 meter circles, crosses, and lines. 

The Bestamskoe Ring is among the so-called Steppe Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan — at least 260 earthwork shapes made up of mounds, trenches and ramparts, the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old, recognizable only from the air. Credit: NASA

To put this in perspective, the earth’s most well-known geoglyphs are the previously mentioned Nazca Lines in Peru. According to estimates, these geoglyphs were created some 1,500 years ago. Dey estimates that the Mahanzhar people settled the region between 7000 BC and 5000 BC and therefore could have potentially built some of Peru’s oldest formations. Dey speculates that these formations  were used by the Mahanzhar people to observe and follow the orbit of the Sun, similar to how the world famous Stonehenge worked.


The largest of the formations is located adjacent to an old settlement from the Neolithic Period. This formation covers an area of 692 km containing a square made up of 101 insignificant hills whose opposite corners are each met by lines forming a diagonal cross. The area of this great formation is even more sizeable than the area of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. 

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan.

A team from Kazakhstan’s Kostanay University and Lithuania’s Vilnius University are heading the research surrounding this great discovery. “So far, we can say only one thing: geoglyphs were built by ancient peoples. For whom and what purpose, a mystery remains”, said the researchers.

These enormous formations are speculated to have the potential to reveal details of the ancient rituals of the peoples of the region. However, attempts to decipher their purpose have been in vain thus far.

The formations, including the Turgai Swastika, were spotted on Google Earth in 2007 by Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh archaeology enthusiast

NASA has asked astronauts at the International Space Station to assist in taking more photos of the Turgai region to help decipher the mysterious geoglyphs. In addition, they are hoping to obtain more information about geoglyphs in general from all over the world, including Peru’s Nazca Lines.

According to NASA, the formations were made approximately 8,000 years ago making their colossal size an astonishing feat for those times. “Building these structures requires a large number of people and requires a huge effort,” explains Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, an archeologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Researchers are hoping to marshal support for investigating the earthen mounds that make up figures like this one, the Big Ashutastinsky Cross.

NASA scientist, Compton J. Tucker commented on the matter saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this before. We want to map the entire region from the material we can.”

It remains to be discovered whether some ancient civilization built these formations for communication, rituals, art or some purpose far beyond our comprehension.

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