Friday, October 7, 2011

Answer: What are those things in the desert?

I first ran across these mysterious desert structures when I read an article about the Nazca lines in Peru and found an odd reference to the "Nazca-like lines in the Saudi Arabian desert."  But there was no reference!  So I did the obvious search, drawing on the analogy between the Nazca lines and the geo-reference of the Saudi desert: 

[ Nazca lines in Saudi desert

Which led me down the rabbit hole of reading about strange geoglyphs around the world, of which these were probably the most interesting (at least at the moment as I was reading).  

We had two readers send in answers... gasstationswithoutpumps and jpp both found the mysteries of the "kites" fairly easily.  (I hope the rest of you did as well!)  

As jpp wrote in his comment:  

1. google maps "loc: 26.00053,40.48997" => "al hayit"
2. google images
[al hayit ground] =>
3. From there I extracted the term: “works of the Old Men”
4. Google Search:
[works of the Old Men] => 

From that site:  

"The most striking are the so-called “kites,” the remnants of long stone walls most likely built by groups of hunters to trap game; the walls outline the shape of a child’s kite. But the kites are huge: The “body” is a wall enclosing a corral-like space often 100 or more meters (328') across. The “tails,” two or more walls running out from the head, are typically each a few hundred meters long, but they can be as long as two or three kilometers (1.2–1.8 mi). On the ground, however, kites are almost impossible to find, because the walls, built of basalt boulders, are only about a meter (3') wide and their surviving height is seldom over half a meter, making them nearly invisible on a landscape already thickly strewn with the same rock.

They were apparently discovered in the late 1920s when airplane pilots were first flying over Saudi Arabia.  The pilots thought they looked mostly like kites, although it's pretty clear that there are a large number of different shapes (rings, wheels, funnels, circles-with-tails, etc.)  

Interestingly, this is also the same time the Peruvian Nazca plain lines were also discovered.  

Other references to the kites:  

I've been trying to find the original reference to the 1920's aviators who noticed the kites, but still haven't been able to track it down.  Anyone have an idea?  (Later:  My friend Lee pointed out that I could find the original article in the first volume of the  journal "Antiquity" 

Antiquity, v 1 , n 2,  pp: 197–203, 1927
The 'Works of the Old Men' in Arabia
Flight-Lieutenant Maitland, Royal Air Force

You can't help but wonder how much other stuff is out there waiting to be found.

Things I found nearby with a quick look around...   

Circle w/ teardrop shaped-wall

Nearby, another circle/teardrop with bars across


  1. Um. I think you got your commenters mixed up. My search was different.

  2. See also:

    Desert kites (also termed hereafter, kites) are ancient funnelshaped installations comprising long, low walls built of local field stones, with two long sides (‘arms’) converging on a stone-walled enclosure or pit at their apex (Figs. 1a,b). These installations were first identified by RAF pilots flying over the eastern desert of Jordan after the 1st World War who coined the term ‘desert kites’ due to their shape as seen from the air (Maitland, 1927; Rees, 1929).
    Two interpretations of the desert kites were initially offered by the RAF pilots; Maitland (1927) suggested they served as hunting traps, while Rees (1929) explained them as devices used in the past to corral and defend domestic herds in times of danger.

    Air Photographs of the Middle East
    O. G. S. Crawford
    The Geographical Journal
    Vol. 73, No. 6 (Jun., 1929), pp. 497-509

    More on Group Captain Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees (He is considered a pioneer of aerial archaeology):


  4. I am always desire to visit desert. here given a good pics in Nazca lines in Saudi desert.This is nice post to know about desert structure.

    Nazca Lines Flights