A geoglyph of a bull discovered in Siberia dates back more than 4,000 years, making it twice as old as the famed Nazca lines of Peru and a millennia older than Uffington’s chalk-lined White Horse.
Geoglyphs, which often have spiritual or religious meaning, are large designs made in the ground that can typically only be seen from the air.
The bull, which measures 10 feet tall by 13 feet long, is formed from carefully arranged pebbles and sandstone.
It was part of a larger Early Bronze Age burial site uncovered near Khondergey, a village in southwest Tuva close to Russia’s border with Mongolia.
This is the first animal geoglyph found in this part of Central Asia, according to archaeologists at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the History of Material Culture, who participated in the discovery.
Archaeologists in Siberia have discovered a bull geoglyph they believe is more than 4,000 years old—a millennia older than Uffington’s White Horse and twice as old as the famed Nazca lines of Peru
‘The bull motif is very typical for the Central Asia cultures of the Early Bronze Era,’ Marina Kilunovskaya, head of Tuva Archaeological Expedition, told The Siberian Times. ‘Later in the Scythian era, bulls were replaced by deers.’
Kilunovskaya said petroglyphs, or rock carvings, of bulls have been discovered in Tuva and the surrounding regions before but this is the first animal geoglyph.
‘We didn’t previously find such stone compositions.’ she told the Times.
Only the back half of the bovine remains—its front was destroyed by road construction in the 1940s. Members of the expedition hope the bull’s rear will be better preserved.
A graphic indicating what the bull would have looked like when it was made. Its front end was unknowingly destroyed during road construction in the 1940s
The bull, which measures 10 feet tall by 13 feet long, is formed from carefully arranged pebbles and sandstone
WHAT ARE GEOGLYPHS?
Geoglyphs are works of art created by moving objects in the landscape, such as stones, trees and gravel.
A positive geoglyph is formed by materials being laid on the ground while a negative geoglyph is formed by removing material.
Though some geoglyphs clearly represent animals and other natural imagery, many have strange square, circular or hexagonal shapes.
The most famous geoglyphs are the Nazca lines in Peru, rediscovered in 1939. The cultural significance of these features remains unclear.
Geoglyphs have been discovered in diverse corners of the world: In addition to the Nazca Lines in Peru and Uffington’s White Horse in England, the Blythe Intaglios are a group of gigantic figures carved into the ground in the Colorado Desert near Blythe, California, that have been radiocarbon-dated to between 900 and 1200 BC.
The Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, England, is a 180-foot tall nude male figure with a prominent erection and large club.
The phallic figure’s outline was made by digging two-feet deep trenches into the ground and filling it with crushed chalk.
Dates for when it was carved have ranged from the Middle Ages to the 17th century, but using optically stimulated luminescence, scientists have placed it much further back, somewhere between 700 1110 AD.
The oldest known geoglyph is also in Russia, though some 1,100 miles away from the Tuva bull: An enormous moose only clearly visible from the sky in Chelyabinsk dates to about 6,000 years ago.
The moose, sometimes labeled an elk, was incised on the Zyuratkul Mountains. It stretches for about 902 feet and depicts an animal with four legs, antlers, and a long muzzle.
Only discovered in 2011 using satellite imaging, the moose is also the largest-known figurative geoglyph, as opposed to an abstract or geometric design.
Stone tools uncovered by archaeologists at the site show indicate were made to fit the hands of children, who partook in the glyph’s creation.
The Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, England, is a 180-foot tall nude male figure with a prominent erection and large club
‘But it was not a kind of slave labor of children,’ Stanislav Grigoryev, a senior researcher from the Chelyabinsk History and Archaeology Institute, told The Siberian Times. ‘They were involved to share common values, to join something important to all the people.’
In 2014, dozens of 50 geoglyphs of various shapes and sizes, including a massive swastika, were discovered across northern Kazakhstan.
WHAT ARE PERU’S MYSTERIOUS ‘NAZCA LINES’?
Geoglyphs span large land tracts located between the towns of Palpa and Nazca. Some geoglyphs depict animals, objects or compact shapes; others are only simplistic lines.
The Nazca people lived in the area from 200 to 700 CE. Some of the designs are believed to be created instead by the Topará and Paracas people.
Most of the lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth of between four inches (10cm) and six inches (15cm), made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert and exposing the light-colored earth beneath.
This sublayer contains high amounts of lime which has hardened to form a protective layer that shields the lines from winds and prevents erosion.
An aerial view of a spiral-tailed monkey figure in Peru’s mysterious Nazca Lines, located some 240 miles south of Lima. No one knows why the Pre-Inca Nazca culture made the figures and lines, some of them miles long
Paul Kosok, from Long Island University, is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines.
He discovered that the lines converged at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.
Along with Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist, Kosok proposed the figures were markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose.