Dozens of circular geoglyphs, some featuring multiple intertwined rings, have been identified and mapped near the ancient Peruvian town of Quilcapampa, revealing that these earthen patterns were created near ancient routes used for trade.
Geoglyphs are drawings, which often form shapes or images, on the landscape. They are found all over the world; the most famous examples are in Nazca, where thousands of these motifs – real and imaginary creatures in geometric shapes – have been carved in the Peruvian desert.
The newly mapped geoglyphs may have had symbolic significance, possibly representing the flow of people and goods through the city at the time, according to Justin Jennings, curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto who is one team leaders. [See Images of the Mysterious Geoglpyhs in the Ancient Town of Peru]
Jennings and his colleagues mapped the geoglyphs of Quilcapampa in the Sihuas Valley using a combination of satellite imagery, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and ground surveys. Smaller geoglyphs are visible from the ground, while larger ones are best viewed from above. Archaeologists try to map the landscape as much as possible before the area is developed for agriculture.
They discovered that many geoglyphs have simple one-ring designs, while others are more complex.
A geoglyph they mapped has at least six rings designed in an irregular pattern, with smaller circles embedded inside larger circles so that the overall design looks a bit like a swirl. Additionally, some of the geoglyphs contain rock clusters called cairns located next to or inside them, archaeologists said.
The size of the geoglyphs varies considerably. Single-ring geoglyphs tend to be two to four meters (6.6 to 13.1 feet) in diameter, while multi-ring geoglyphs can span 800 square meters, or about the size of two lots. basketball hoops reunited.
Most of the geoglyphs were made “by removing surface stones to expose the sandy soil below,” the archaeologists wrote in an article to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Scientists have dated many of these geoglyphs to the Late Intermediate Period (1050 to 1400 AD). During this time, Quilcapampa supported a 70-hectare (173-acre) colony that was a hub for trade, Jennings said. [Images: 14 Strangest Sites on Google Earth]
Geoglyphs are not the only art that the people of Quilcapampa were creating during this time. Many examples of rock art (called petroglyphs) that have been carved into the cliff walls have been documented near Quilcapampa in previous studies.
It is still a mystery why the people of Quilcapampa often used circles in the design of geoglyphs; no writing system existed in Peru at that time to offer a possible explanation.
Jennings said the team’s cartographic research shows that many geoglyphs are located next to or near tracks used in ancient trade.
During the period that Quilcapampa thrived, there was “a lot more interaction between the coast and the highlands,” Jennings said. The “movement” of people and goods (including food) along these routes was necessary for daily life – something that the circular designs could symbolize, he added.
This summer, the researchers will resume their studies at Quilcapampa. The team’s work is supported by a grant from the Research and Exploration Committee of the National Geographic Society.
Original article on Live Science.