Move over Peru: Shapes in Jordanian desert 6,000 years older than Nazca lines

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Peru’s famous Nazca lines have long fascinated scientists and history buffs across the world who are drawn to the mystery behind how they got there and what the giant drawings that were made somewhere between 500 BCE and 500 AD could mean.

Scientists working in Jordan, however, believe that wheel-shaped patterns spotted from above in Wadi Wisad in the Black Desert may be a little older … by about 6,000 years.

As seen from the sky, the structures appear to in the shape of wheels, which often have spokes radiating out from the center, kites, pendants and meandering walls that shoot out into the desert for hundreds of feet.

While it is unclear who made these collections of ancient images or what their significance was, the 8,500-year-old geoglyphs are thought to have been built to align with sunrise during the winter solstice.

The ancient shapes were first spotted by pilots flying over the region during World War I and the first published account of the shapes was written by Royal Air Force Lt. Percy Maitland in 1927 in the journal Antiquity, where it was reported that Bedouins in the region called the structures "works of the old men."

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The pictograms "demonstrate specific geometric patterns and extend from a few tens of meters up to several kilometers, evoking parallels to the well-known system of geometric lines of Nazca, Peru," wrote an archaeological team in a paper published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science, LiveScience reported.

The scientists added that these types of structures "occur throughout the entire Arabia region, from Syria across Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Yemen,” and that “the most startling thing about the 'works' is that they are difficult to identify from the ground. This stands in contrast to their apparent visibility from the air."

That visibility from the air makes them similar to the Nazca lines, which were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.

Only a few inches deep, the Peruvian lines were created by removing the top layer of red pebbles to expose the light gray ground beneath. They are believed to have been intended to act as a kind of observatory, to point to the places where the sun and other celestial bodies rose or set in the solstices. Other theories suggest that they were created to be seen by the gods in the sky.

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