Sprawled and crawling across the vast Kazakh Steppe in northern Kazakhstan are shapes created for unknown reasons thousands of years ago. The shapes range from rings, to circles and squares, to swastikas and crosses. They are enormous – so much in fact, that they can be seen from space. NASA wants to help solve the puzzle -they will be photographing the Steppe Geoglyphs from the International Space Station.
The glyphs are 300 to 1,300 feet across, so they can only be fully appreciated from a distant satellite’s perspective, so this project will work perfectly for astronauts on board the ISS. Thus far, NASA has discovered over 260 geoglyphs in this area.
“They’re really curious and puzzling,” said Compton Tucker, a climate scientist at NASA who studies the planet through satellite imaging. “At the moment, we don’t have a clue what they are.”
These designs are similar to the Nazca lines in Peru, except that these are built up above the ground while the Nazca lines were dug out.
Researchers are working to formulate an idea around who might have created the designs. Most tribes and cultures at the time in that area were nomadic, which would make creating such sweeping designs impossible. And it’s still a mystery as to why they might have created them in the first place.
“These alignments might have something to do with the calendar, to tell where the movement of the sun was so that the people would have some idea of when the spring or fall was coming, which might be important for their animal husbandry,” Tucker told Huffington Post.
“Hopefully, it’s not some Bronze Age crop-circle prank, where people thought, ‘Let’s make a big pattern; in the future they’ll be stumped.”