What is a Geoglyph?

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A geoglyph is a work of art which is created by arranging or moving objects within a landscape. These objects are usually stones or earth. In creating this art form the artist or group of artists arrange objects to create the art or remove objects in a structured pattern to create lines or spaces that contrast with the surrounding terrain to form the art work. Another type of geoglyphs often referred to as ‘chalk giants’ are those carved into hillsides exposing the bedrock beneath.

The term geoglyph has been used rather loosely in recent times to encompass all super large beautiful structures on the earth surface. However, a lot of these structures in the real sense of the word cannot be classified as geoglyph due to the fact that this discredit structured were not originally designed to be art works but rather burial sites, etc.


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For an art form to be regarded as a geoglyph it must generally be more that 4 metres in length. It must also be stated at this point that this art form is are difficult to see or even identified on the ground but are easily appreciated when seen from the sky.

Nazca Monkey geoglyph from an aerial taken by Maria Reiche, one of the first archaeologists to study the lines, in 1953.
Nazca Monkey geoglyph from an aerial taken by Maria Reiche, one of the first archaeologists to study the lines, in 1953.

The first geoglyph was discovered in 1977 by Ondemar Dias and since then there has been many other discoveries including the ones mentioned above in Kazakhstan, in Central Asia. However, discovery has shown that not of these art forms are from ancient times, an example of a very famous one is the Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson.

Spiral Jetty from atop Rozel Point. The geoglyph was created by artist Robert Smithson in 1970.
Spiral Jetty from atop Rozel Point. The geoglyph was created by artist Robert Smithson in 1970.

Examples of famous geoglyphs around the world are the Nazca Lines in Peru, Blythe Intaglios in the USA, Pintados in the Atacama Desert of Chile, Effigy Mounds in the USA, Quebrada de Santo Domingo in Peru, Big Horn Medicine Wheel of Wyoming in the USA and the Uffington Horse in England.

The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is a medicine wheel located in the Big Horn Mountains of the U.S. state of Wyoming.
The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is a medicine wheel located in the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming.

While the geoglyph looks like a work of art, the researchers have not been able to agree on the purpose for which these gigantic structured have been built. Quoting a group of scientists: “As of today, we can say only one thing — the geoglyphs were built by ancient people. By whom and for what purpose, remains a mystery.” However, one thing is certain this art form sure looks pretty on the terrain from the skies.

Satellite view of the Uffington White Horse. Source: NASA.
Satellite view of the Uffington White Horse. Source: NASA.

References: 

Geoglyph.  Wikipedia.  Accessed September 26, 2014.

Nazca Lines of Kazakhstan: More Than 50 Geoglyphs Discovered.  September 23, 2014. LiveScience.  Accessed September 26, 2014.

The Top Ten Geoglyphs – UK & The World. n.d.  Britain Explorer.Accessed September 26, 2014.

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