Geoglyphs are the largest kinds of art that artists have ever created because they are spread on the canvas of their natural landscapes. Depending upon the time and creators, some of them represent gods, and some of them have practical utility. Viewing works of art that are many times bigger than the regular ones in their natural habitat is very intriguing. The following is a list of 10 such incredible geoglyphs from around the world.
1. Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, England is a 3,000-year-old geoglyph made of chalk. The horse is considered the oldest hill figure in the entire country, and it requires regular cleaning. Maintenance is a feature of the site because it’s a custom that has continued since it was created.
The earliest reference of the figure can be found as early as the 11th century. This was the time when it was already popularized as a geographical site. Initially, the origin of the chalk-cut figure was only speculation. It was only in 1990 when it was finally concluded that it was made 3,000 years ago during the late Bronze Age.
The 360-foot-long, 130-foot-wide horse figure sets itself apart from the other similar figures in England including the Westbury Whitehorse, Osmington, etc.
A securing festival has been held every seven years since at least the 17th century to keep the design visible. Besides clearing natural vegetation and renewing the faded top layer of chalk, the event marks climbing greasy poles, rolling wheels of cheese down the hill, pipe-smoking marathons, and other fun activities of all sorts.
To keep it away from Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe, the Uffington Horse was completely obscured during World War II. Currently, it is maintained by the Nation Trust. (Source)
2. Located in the Atacama Desert, Chile, the Atacama Giant is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world. The geoglyph is 119 meters long and dates back to between 1000 and 1400 BCE. The figure was used as an astronomical calendar to predict the weather.
The gigantic figure is surrounded by thousands of smaller ones on the Cerro Unitas hillside of Chile. It is considered an image of a deity and was used to calculate the movement of the Moon.
The surrounding figures represent vivid birds, mystical designs, etc. The designs, including the Atacama Giant, were created using two methods. One method was to dig up the lines from the soil, while in the second one, they placed patterns of stones and sand on top of it. Sometimes they used a combination of both techniques.
The only straight-line feature of the main figure depicts some ceremonial garb or unearthly characteristic of a god. Researchers have insisted that whatever the lines may represent, they had some very significant practical uses.
It was used to track the time of the year. The blissful rainy season was anticipated when the lines of the figure on its entire body aligned with the moon. (Source)
3. Representing the trident of the god Viracocha, the Paracas Candelabra is a 181-meter-tall geoglyph in Pisco, Peru. The figure is massive enough to be seen 19.3 kilometers at sea. Its age is unknown, though archaeologists have found pottery nearby that goes back to 200 BCE.
The purpose of making and the creators of the Candelabra of the Andes are unknown. It looks like a bulbous, three-pronged fork and is fixed two feet deep into the petrified sand of the hill.
One of the theories claims that the figure is meant to evoke the trident of Incan creator god Viracocha. Another one says that it represents a beacon home for people tripping on the local drug, which is the Jimson drug. The drug and its hallucinogenic effects might have held some ritual significance too.
Some also believe that the mysterious figure was simply made for sailors looking for the Paracas coast. There is a variety of ideas surrounding the figure’s meaning, but it is indeed true that it by no means represents any object like candelabra.
Even if its date and makers are missing, the site has never ceased to spark interest in researchers and visitors. (Source)
4. Every line of the Sajama Lines in Sajama, Bolivia is three to ten feet wide and runs up to 11 miles. Thousands of such together account for 10,000 miles of total length. They were etched by indigenous people somewhere around 3,000 years ago.
A satellite image of the Sajama Lines appears as if they are a network of roads that lead nowhere. They are, in fact, perfect, white, straight lines etched into the Bolivian desert sand. Without the help of modern technology, it was quite a feat for its creators to make perfectly straight lines in such rigged terrain of highlands.
The lines can be found near the highest point in Bolivia, which is the Nevado Sajama volcano. Some call the figures the world’s largest work of art whose makers are totally unknown.
Researchers say that the geoglyphs must have been made by scraping away the dark, oxidized material to bring forth the lighter surface beneath.
The lines are apparently impractical to us, but theories are suggesting some of the uses. One of those says that they were used as routes that lead to shrines and sacred sites, although even that is unsure. (Source)
5. In the world’s most famous geoglyph site, the Nazca Lines in Peru, a 2,000-year-old giant cat geoglyph was discovered. The 120-foot-long geoglyph was unnoticed for years, but after its discovery in 2020, it was cleaned and conserved. Researchers say that the cat actually predates its surrounding geoglyphs and the Nazca culture.
The geoglyph of the cat was barely visible and was about to vanish. This is so because the figure is carved on a steep hill slope which is easily prone to natural erosion. When the geoglyph was found, a path was created leading uphill.
The hill was then used as an observation platform for visitors who come to see other geoglyphs at the popular site.
The Nazca Lines is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each one of the specimens was created by making depressions on the desert floor and leaving the colored earth exposed.
Most of the geoglyphs at the site were created during the Nazca Culture dating back to 200 to 700 CE. However, the cat figure is older than the rest and dates the late Paracas Era around 500 BCE to 200 CE.
The evidence for such claim lies in the iconographies on the Paracas textiles that usually featured birds, cats, and human figures. (Source)
Also read: 10 Ancient Art That Is Unique and Interesting