| 2 April 2015
The mysterious rock formations in the Gobi Desert
Around 200 mysterious stone structures have mystified experts since they were discovered in the Gobi Desert in 2003. Known as the 'strange stone circles' by locals in Turpan, the formations vary in size and shape. Now an expert has suggested they could have been used by primitive nomads to worship the sun.
The circles are located in the Flaming Mountain in north west China and cover more than two-and-a-half square miles (6.6 square km). They have been filmed from above using a drone by a local tourism association, in an attempt to further understand the structures and their origins.
Experts said that the stone circles are in line with local historical traditions but very little is known about them, including their age. Some people had assumed that they were burial sites and attempted to dig them up.
Similar formations were found in Burkhan Khaldun mountain in north Mongolia and archaeologists have even suggested these Mongolian rocks could help pinpoint the location of Genghis Khan's tomb. This view is shared by Dr Volker Heyd, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol. "First of all, they are man-made; there is no doubt about it," Heyd said, "I have seen similar features in neighbouring Mongolia where they are well known too [and] they are regarded as ritual features," he added.
The stone structures are built on high points of the land and some are square, with 'exits' to combine certain shapes. The rocks used in these structures are not from the desert where the circles are located, suggesting that they were brought from afar, much like Stonehenge's famous bluestones.
One particular stone circle is known as the 'Sun Circle' and is formed by four concentric circles, the largest of which measures 26 ft (8 m) in diameter, with the smallest inner ring destroyed. On the southeast of the Sun Circle there are a multiple circles of different sizes.
There is no precise date for the structure, but Dr Heyd added the first of these Gobi stone structures might date back as early as the Bronze Age, although the more complex formations are likely "younger and could have been constructed until the Medieval period."
A lack of evidence of bodies at the sites has led a local unnamed expert to rule out that the formations are burial sites, instead claiming they were sacrificial worship sites for ancient nomadic people.
Edited from Mail Online (27 March 2015)
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