Middle East: Giant Stone Glyphs Viewed By Satellite
By Hwaa Irfan
Present global conditions highlight how much we overestimate our understanding of the world in which we live in. We have all been raised to separate knowledge, label, box, and disseminate into specialties and given to experts to take over while we do the same with our lives. Viewing the world around us, and our lives in this manner, it becomes very difficult to understand the revelations and discoveries of the past that keep cropping up from time to time.
One such recent discovery are the geoglyphs in the Middle East covering Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia – totally unexpected because we are used to seeing such discoveries in South America. These geoglyphs are more commonly known as Nazca/Nasca Lines after the Nazca Desert and the people who lived there in South Peru.
Given that we only know of air flight since the 19th century, putting aside Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, it is very difficult to conceive of how huge drawings into the earth can be made when to draw requires one to be above or away from that which is being drawn. These geoglyphs are only visible from the sky in the main and not from the ground, although it was a Peruvian archaeologist, Toribio Mejia Xesspe who in recent times discovered a geoglyph whilst hiking in the foothills of Peru in 1927. It was not until 1930, when aircraft were surveying the ground for water, that the many geoglyphs in Peru became widely known.
The Middle East
The Nazca Lines of the Jordon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are in the form of ‘wheel’ designs which have been revealed by satellite and aerial photos. They first came to Western light in 1927 by Lt. Percy Maitland, an RAF pilot. The recent revelations are that of David Kennedy, a professor of classic and ancient history, University of Australia told Live Science.
They are not only more numerous (in the thousands) than the famous Lines of Peru, but are older. They have been built by stone, and cover a wider area.
‘People have probably walked over them, walked past them, for centuries, millennia, without having any clear idea what the shape was,’ David Kennedy,
But the local Bedouin know of them and refer to these geoglpyhs as ‘the work of old men.’
The geoglpyhs are found mainly on lava fields, but without any pattern that can be recognized yet.
The Nazca people of Peru, lived around 2000BC – 700AD, but in saying that there are still Inca people living today (from personal experience). The high arid plains of Nazca was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994. There are 15,000 Nazca Lines taking the shape of animals, trees, flowers, and geometric patterns. They all have well defined entrances/exits indicating some kind of gathering.
The lines are shallow, and is assumed are made by removal of reddish pebbles to reveal the whitish colored ground underneath, but if that was the simple step, how could the lines remained so visible over thousands of years. Surely with changing weather conditions, some shift of top soil, would have taken place. It is explained that the whitish sub-layer contains limestone that in the morning mist hardens into a protective layer preventing erosion. The arid conditions, the minimal rainfall, and the flat stony ground with little dust or sand are the reasons why the Nazca Lines have been maintained.
However, the 20th and 21st century is making up for lost time as now the Nazca Lines are suffering from a slow process of destruction, tomb raiders, copper and gold mining in the area, huge messages being carved into the rocks between designs, a 1998 flood due to deforestation, and electric companies disfiguring the view.
In Chile, a Nazca Line in the form of a human figure exists on the side of Solitary Mountain. Known as the Giant of Atacama, it is 393 in length and is surrounded by more Nazca Lines.
In the Andes Mountains is a candelabrum, and further south on the Sierra Pintada there are Nacza Lines in the form of spirals, circles, warriors and a condor.
In the 1940’s American explorer Paul Kosok suggested that these geoglyphs held astronomical significance. American astronomer, Gerald Hawkins fed the position of the sample lines into a computer in 1968, and calculated how many lines coincided with an important astronomical event. Hawkins found no astronomical significance accept by ‘chance’ leading to the belief that it is unlikely that the Nazca Lines of Peru served as an observatory. However Hawkins only used a sample on a 1968 computer, and we are not yet in a position to know what the Nazca people were calculating, and what the night sky was like so many thousands of years ago.
Cahuachi is the name of the lost city of the Line makers, which was discovered to be a major ceremonial center for the Nazca culture. Cahuachi overlooks the Nazca Lines. Burial sites reveal mummified bodies of the Nazca people themselves. Robin Edgar refers to the ‘Eve of God’ which occurs during total solar eclipses, and that a series of solar eclipses occurred during the construction of the Nazca Lines of Peru, some of which are aligned with the winter solstice.
Well known for her work on the Peruvian Nazca Lines, German mathematician, and archaeologist Maria Reiche supports the belief that they served as an astronomical calendar, but to verify this, there needs to be a more precise dating of the Nazca Lines as the procession of the equinoxes changes direction.
Dr. Paul Kosok as an American professor of history with an interest in irrigation systems thought that the lines pertained to irrigation, but realized that this was not possible due to the shallowness of the Lines. He further went onto to locate a star-like array, and coincidentally found that it aligned with the first solstice (winter solstice in the southern hemisphere) which he photographed in June 21st, 1939. As his tenure expired he asked Reiche who was living in Peru to continue the research, research that was to be the first detailed work of the area and led to her convincing UNESCO to claim it as a World Heritage Site. Six months after accepting Kosok’s proposal, Reiche discovered a line pointing to the summer solstice. Reiche describes her findings as follows:
‘I began my research in 1940, but then the war came and Peru joined the allies. We Germans were not allowed to leave Lima. In ‘46 I could see that the solstice lines existed in different places especially from centers, of which almost every one of them has one, or two, solstice lines. There are also solstice triangles! In general, one can say that not only straight lines, but also the edges of triangles and quadrangles, have specific directions which are repeated everywhere. More than sun directions there are moon directions, which is in agreement with the knowledge that the moon was observed before the sun.
For instance, the big quadrangle beside the figure of the spider is a moon direction and the other one beside the figure of the Heron with the winding neck, is one side in the single direction and the other side in the solstice direction! Such a quadrangle could have served to predict eclipses, which were a powerful means of subjecting the people. Even Columbus used an eclipse to frighten the people as he knew the correct time to do so.
During this work of measuring lines I saw that there were many figures.
I could recognize them because I had seen one! Others couldn’t.
That is why the Pan American highway cut the figure of the lizard in half. Before the highways construction in 1938 people drove randomly over the lines and figures without seeing anything! From the air the figures were not visible either due to the nature of the soil at the time. You see the figures are of a whitish color on a brown surface, this brown surface is a thin covering of dark stone about 10 cm, which suffers the process of oxidation giving the entire region its particular brownish effect. Underneath the soil is still whitish, not brown, comprised of a mixture of rock that had been split into small fragments due to extreme temperatures, and clay, which ultimately was blown away by strong winds coming down from the Andes. The huge basin was filled with this mixture creating this flat surface we call the Pampa. This is why we only have these small pebbles on the surface.
There are extremely strong winds here, even sandstorms, but the sand never deposits over the drawings. On the contrary, the wind has a cleansing effect taking away all the loose material. This way the drawings were preserved for thousands of years. It is also one of the driest places on earth, drier then the Sahara. It rains only half an hour every two years! Now all this has changed due to air pollution. Huge masses of dust and sand blow in from a large iron mine southwest of Nasca and fills the entire region with contamination, this produces precipitation, not enough for agriculture, but enough to endanger the figures.
The figures, the drawings, are very superficial furrows never more then 30 cm in depth, and very shallow. For this reason the wind has obscured them by filling them with small dark pebbles from the surrounding surface like grain, making them difficult to detect from the air. To make them more accessible for viewing I cleaned them with a broom, one broom after another throughout the years. I went through so many brooms rumors circulated that I might be a witch!
I presented the Peruvian Air force with charts of the figures of the Pampa, and this began a wonderful cooperation between us resulting in many photographic flights.
The number of drawings on the pampa is immense, there are thousands of straight lines, hundreds of triangles and quadrangles, and dozens of figures. All this spread over 50 kilometers from north to south, and 5 to 7 kilometers from the foot of the Andes toward the sea. The biggest concentration of drawings is always found at the edges of the different plains where the descent to the valleys begin because this is the nearest place to where the people who made the drawings lived though they never lived among the drawings, nor buried their dead there.
On the other hand there are some very isolated drawings in the midst of the desert. Others are on high mountain tops or behind mountain ridges where the people who drew them had to travel for hours to get there. This is very strange and inexplicable. Something else that is difficult to explain is why they wanted to draw on such different scales.
There are figures only 4 meters long and others with a length of 200 to 300 meters. The same applies to geometric surfaces. There are some that are only a few meters long; the longest quadrangle further north has a length of 1,600 meters. The sizes come in several categories. The next category begins with a line that is 800 meters long. That’s the length of the lines next to the spider and heron. There is another one half that size, a little over 400 meters. It is the quadrangle next to the lizard.
It’s evident that not only directions of the geometric drawings may be of importance, but also their dimensions. The length of the straight lines also varies. I know two that are 9 kilometers in length and absolutely straight. This fact of straightness may be explained by the extraordinary eyesight of the ancient people of Peru. There are only two places in the world where we have this kind of telescopic eyesight, where people can see small things at immense distances, the one is in Mongolia in the Gobi Desert, and the other is here among these people.
I presented one of these people to an Oculist (Ophthalmologist) to see if drawing might harm his eyes. The Oculist was stunned because the letter chart was not small enough to test the limit of his extraordinary vision, which were equal in both eyes. He called him hypometric. This boy can also draw very tiny images to a fraction of accuracy. I believe this explains many things about the Nazca drawings.
The longest straight lines are those that connect one center with another, there are others that don’t lead anywhere but go back and forth several times. Sometimes there are two forms of them – zigzag lines and oscillating lines, by which I mean those that have individual pieces going back and forth almost parallel. These forms also appear in different sizes from a few meters in length. The two longest ones – one zigzag and the other oscillating, have individual pieces of about 1 km in length. The width also varies. In the small figures of 4 meters in length, the width is of 5 and 10 meters. Recently a snake-like figure was discovered from the air with a width of 40 ½ meters, from the ground you cannot detect this figure if you don’t know exactly where it is, but from the air it’s immense!
The people who made the Nazca drawings lived in different valleys over a period of 3,000 years or more and left as a testament to their existence millions of layers in which are found fine gold and silver work, excellent pottery, and the finest cloth in the world. We do not know when they made the drawings. The immense quantity of drawings, each executed with utmost precision, must have taken at least half a generation to make. A Carbon 14 test made on a stick found at the end of a quadrangle in a heap of stones gives the year 550 AD, but I am sure that they are much older then that! We know that the drawing activity extended through the time of the Inca because there are several drawings which are typical to the Inca style, sometimes drawn over older smaller figures, which are still visible underneath. This way, the drawing activity very well could have been extended over 2,000 years or more.’
Reiche goes onto explain how the arrangement of the heavenly bodies were used to guide the people as to when to sow and when to harvest. Every December the rivers would fill unlike now as pollution has prevented the clouds from reaching the high mountains and then inundate the rivers – a practice similar to the Ancient Egyptians, which was indicated by the constellation of Sirius, but was the Big Dipper for the Nazca people.
Reiche also describes how they used cloth and drawing to scale in order to carrying out the large Nazca Lines in proportion.
‘ It took me many years to find it but now I believe I have it with great certainty. It is a simple unit derived from the length of the human body and also half its length that we can see in the figure of the Tumi – the so-called ceremonial knife with a human representation. It is about 80 cm or 1 step. Half of this, about 40 cm, is the Egyptian cubit measured from the thumb to the elbow. I derived this unit from the comparative study of the curves of the figures. There are figures that consist exclusively of curves like the monkey, and the spider, so regular that we can be sure that they have been made with a stake and a cord, like a huge compass. For many places the curve was a unit 40-cm, they also had half a unit of about 20-cm, or a span. That is the absolute smallest unit in all the figures, and it is found in the toes of the monkey and in the 4 -meter long fingers.
The method of constructing the succeeding arcs of the figure is the same method employed in road construction where a curved road is considered a succession of arcs of different radii. In order to obtain the continuity of the curve the builders employed this method, and also a method where the center of the following, curves to be on the end radius of the preceding. Then we have a tangent in common where the curve continues. If we have an accurate map of a figure to within 2 cm accuracy we can superimpose on such a chart a very geometric construction based on these principles and on the unit of measurement, and get a perfect coincidence, proving that this work was done with absolute accuracy. This accuracy was employed in abstract figures like spirals and figures derived from spirals. So there must have been a reason. I believe we can find it in the same way that the pyramids are explained – that the length was considered as intervals of time.’
‘… This would explain the fact that drawing activity was done to preserve knowledge. The knowledge that humanity has garnered over hundreds and thousands of years for the practical purpose of survival.’
As to whether the indigenous knowledge of the Nazca Lines still exists, Reiche gives a hint on a 1932 trip when she injured the middle finger of her left hand. This led to her asking a question in 1952, when she discovered a monkey geoglyph with 9 fingers. Reiche asked those who knew the old Nazca stories what three fingers and one thumb meant, and eventually found it stood for the sign of the God of Thunder, which had the ability to communicate with the gods.
Doore, K. ‘Maria Reiche: The Nazca Lines Theory.’ http://www.labyrinthina.com/mariareiche.htm
‘Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana.’ http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/700
‘Riddle in the Sands: Thousands of Strange ‘Nazca Lines’ Discovered in the Middle East.’ http://www.riseearth.com/2011/09/riddle-in-sands-thousands-of-strange.html