Saturday, March 19, 2011


This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.  

Too often when people don't understand something they turn to something magical as an explanation. “Proof” by personal incredulity is pretty common. Those missing socks... Lawn gnomes hiding in my closet are stealing them. Some think that the pyramids in Egypt were too much for such “primitive” people to create. Therefore ancient astronauts.

Another thing that's blamed on ancient astronauts are the figures that are found in the Nazca area of Peru ( These are giant figures and lines scratched into the dry ground of the area. They have figures of monkeys, spiders, birds and other animals found in the region. There are also abstract geometrical figures.

And because some people can't conceive of how primitive people could have created artwork that they couldn't see, these figures are often ascribed to ancient astronauts. I've seen it where this is actually claimed to be a landing field for the spacecraft.

But this is actually another form of rock art that many peoples around the world have created. Here in Tehachapi, we're pretty familiar with both pictographs (painted on) and petroglyphs (carved into the rock) since we have both at sites not too far away. But the giant figures carved into the ground by moving the surface away are less familiar. 

These are known as geoglyphs. And the Nazca figures are fairly famous examples. There are also some known in England where the turf has been removed to expose the white chalk below. But it is more typical to find such geoglyphs in dry desert areas where rain won't wash them away.

Well we live in a desert, where are our geoglyphs? Sadly there aren't any (that I know about) nearby. But our local deserts do have them. There are some formed by lining rocks up found in Panamint Valley and Death Valley. But there are some much like those of Nazca found down near the Colorado River near Blythe.

These are known as the Blythe Intaglios. The word intaglio comes from the Italian and is used to describe something where the art is created by carving “into” something else. And the Blythe Intaglios have been carved into the desert varnished desert pavement exposing the lighter colored rocks and sand beneath.

They were “discovered” back in the 1930s when someone flew a plane from Blythe to Las Vegas. They were known before then, but no one really knew what they were like from the brief mentions in the logbooks of the people exploring the area. 

While they aren't are large or extensive as those found in Peru, they are still remarkable. They appear to be found in ceremonial sites above the flood plain of the Colorado River. There are three locations that are reasonably well know and protected by fences, though even these had suffered some damage from off road vehicles before the fences were put it decades ago. There are many others that are protected by “security through obscurity”. Since as long as no one knows about them, they are less likely to get damaged.

The three sites that are publicly accessible can be found using a search with Google Earth, where you can see the figures in the satellite photos. Most of the figures involve a humanoid figure, believed to be a representation of the creator spirit, that made the Colorado River. They are not especially beautiful, but they are impressive.

And when someone says to me that it is inconceivable that such “primitive” people created this large piece of art, I am reminded of the movie The Princess Bride (1987). Where one of the characters often used the word, “inconceivable”. After a while, one of the other characters said to him, “I do not think it means, what you think it means.”


  1. My lawn gnomes get the blame for every thing.Lol You often use the word inconceivable.

  2. Well, at least I haven't gone looking under bridges yet.

    And I think most of the time, when I use the word "inconceivable" I'm alluding to Princess Bride. I think. 'Cause frankly there ain't much that is really inconceivable. And when someone says something is unthinkable, well, they're usually thinking of it.