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2 October 2014
The geoglyphs of Kazakhstan

More than 50 geoglyphs with various shapes and sizes have been discovered across northern Kazakhstan in central Asia. These sprawling structures, mostly earthen mounds, create a similar type of landscape art to that most famously seen in the Nazca region of Peru.
     Discovered using Google Earth, the geoglyphs are designed in a variety of geometric shapes, including squares, rings, and crosses ranging from 90 to 400 meters in diameter.
     Over the past year, an archaeological expedition from Kazakhstan's Kostanay University, working in collaboration with Vilnius University in Lithuania, has been examining the geoglyphs. The team, which is conducting excavations, ground-penetrating radar surveys, aerial photography and dating, recently presented its initial results at the European Association of Archaeologists' annual meeting in Istanbul.
     Archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of structures and hearths at the geoglyphs, suggesting that rituals took place there. Ancient tribes may also have used the geoglyphs to mark ownership of the land.
     While Peru's Nazca Lines are the world's most famous geoglyphs, archaeological research suggests that geoglyphs were constructed in numerous areas around the world by different cultures.
     In the Middle East, archaeologists have found thousands of wheel-shaped structures that are easily visible from the sky, but hard to see on the ground. Also recently in Russia, archaeologists excavated a geoglyph shaped like an elk, which appears older than the Nazca Lines.
     Ancient geoglyphs have also been reported in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil and the Southwestern United States. The introduction of high-resolution Google Earth imagery over the last decade has helped both professional archaeologists and amateurs detect and study these enigmatic structures.

Edited from LiveScience (23 September 2014)

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