Archaeologists Find Swastika in Kazakhstan Landscape
Google Earth spots more than 50 geoglyphs, including the enormous ancient symbol
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2014 9:15 AM CDT
A stock photo of Kazakhstan.   (AP Photo/Peter Leonard)

(Newser) – Google Earth can be used for more than peeking into your neighbor's backyard: Archaeologists have discovered more than 50 geoglyphs in Kazakhstan, thanks to images from the virtual geographical and map service, reports the International Business Times. Geoglyphs are large designs on the ground, usually created out of mounds of dirt and other natural elements, that can be seen from above. Scientists from Kostanay University, who made their announcement about the structures at an archaeology meeting in Istanbul, say the geoglyphs range in size from 295 feet to 1,312 feet in diameter and come in the shape of squares, circles, crosses—and even a giant swastika, LiveScience reports. (Click to a photo slideshow.)

Geoglyphs like these that resemble Peru's famous Nazca Lines have been found all over the world, including giant "wheels" in the Middle East and an elk-like structure in Russia. It may seem surprising at first that a swastika is one of the Kazakhstani creations—and it was made of timber, not dirt, LiveScience notes—but many ancient cultures and religions used the swastika long before Hitler appropriated it. "Swastika" is derived from the Sanskrit term for "good fortune" or "well-being," and the symbol itself is believed to show the sun's movement in the sky, notes the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. "As of today, we can say only one thing—the geoglyphs were built by ancient people. By whom and for what purpose, remains a mystery," two of the project's scientists said in an email to LiveScience. (See what was revealed when sandstorms blew over the Peruvian desert last month.)