What are geoglyphs? – Nazca Lines in North America – Blythe Intaglios – Mojave Twins – Similarities between Blythe Intaglios and Nazca Lines – Mastamho and Mojave legends.
What are geoglyphs?
Among numerous ways to record history in the ancient times, like making drawings on rock in the form of petroglyphs and pictograms, there is one way that takes it to a whole new level. I am talking about geoglyphs, gigantic “drawings” right on the face of the Earth.
Wikipedia gives the following definition: “A geoglyph is a large design or motif (generally longer than 4 meters) produced on the ground by durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, gravel, or earth. “ Geoglyphs are divided into two kinds: a negative (or extractive), which is removing part of the natural ground until a differently colored layer shows, and positive (or additive), when a figure is formed by arranging different materials, like stones, on top of the ground.
There are plenty of examples all around the world. Of course, everyone’s heard of the famous Nazca Lines in Peru. Other examples include Atakama Giant in Chile, Paracas Candelabra in Peru, Steppe Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan, Westbury White Horse in England and many others. You can easily realize that these phenomena are of planetary proportions, especially if you think how many geoglyphs existed, but didn’t stand the test of time. This is probably why the most famous and detailed ones are located in deserts. I think it happened not because our ancestors necessarily chose deserts, but because these are the only ones to remain intact.
A desert has all the conditions for preservation of geoglyphs: no civilization imprint, dry air, practically no rainfall and winds that keep the ground clear of debris and don’t let the drawings be buried under the soil and sand. So, if you want to find geoglyphs, a desert is where you should look.
“Nazca Lines” in North America
The Mojave Desert is very similar to the Nazca Desert in Peru: not much sand, primarily rock and gravel. It is located in primarily southeastern California and southwestern Nevada with small parts in Arizona and Utah. It is the driest desert in North America, which might be the reason it preserved some of the most unique geoglyphs: The Blythe Intaglios and Mojave Twins.
Just like in Nazca, both sets of geoglyphs were created by removing the top dark layer of the ground to unearth a lighter layer of yellowish soil. Like in Nazca, the ancient Mojave people drew humanoid figures, animals, symbols (yes, spirals, too!) And finally, like in Nazca, these drawings can only be appreciated from the sky. In fact, when you look at them on the ground, you would never really make anything of it. I’ll tell you more: there are no mountains over them, no hills, no trees, no towers, so even if the locals wanted to see them from above, they wouldn’t be able to. Even now, the only way for us to see them from above is to fly other them.
So, what are these mysterious Blythe Intaglios and Mojave Twins and how do you find them?
Blythe Intaglios are called after a nearby town called Blythe, California. They are pretty easy to find on Google Maps, so I don’t have to explain how to get to them, but I have to say: the only thing that you will see on the highway, is a small, nearly unnoticeable sign. Once you turn, you are on a dirt road, which will lead you to the geoglyphs. The road is not too bad and easily passable when dry. As far as the signage goes, although I expected more, there are several information plaques explaining the history and the meaning of the drawings.
The main geoglyphs of the area are fenced with chain-link fences for preservation. The biggest human figure is 171 feet tall, which is similar to some Nazca animal figures (for example, the Nazca Spider is 150 feet tall and the Whale is 210 feet tall).
Even though there is not much you can see today, I have a strong feeling that there were many more geoglyphs in the past. Unfortunately, they were most probably destroyed by the civilization which is constantly growing all around this historic monument.
The quest to find Mojave Twins was a little more complicated. I didn’t find any definitive directions on Google Maps! But after a little bit of research, I finally managed to pinpoint their location. The geoglyph is located in a small town in Arizona, on the border with California, called Fort Mohave. It is not marked whatsoever, not even a sign or a plaque. I found some information online that it is only possible to see the Mojave Twins with a guided tour, but I discovered that it is actually no problem to see them by yourself, if you know where they are (Naturally, please be respectful, do not litter and so on!)
If you are going north on Arizona Hwy 95 through Fort Mohave, turn left on Gardena Rd and go to the very end. Then you can turn immediately right and follow a narrow dirt road until you see a fence. If you don’t have a 4×4 car, I suggest you park somewhere at the beginning of the dirt road and walk.
Here are the exact coordinated of the Mojave Twins: 35.009457,-114.608180
Behind this makeshift fence you will see two humanoid figures. One of them has an unusually big head. As you probably can guess, you can only see him well from above. Once again, there is no tower there, there is no natural object, like a mountain or a tree, where you can climb and see the Mojave Twins.
So, the question remains: why would the Native people draw these giant figures, when they had no way to observe or enjoy the product of their efforts? Unless, of course, they wanted to draw attention of someone else, who might see it from the sky… Who might that be?
Mastamho and Mojave Legends
Scholars believe that the main humanoid geoglyphs represent Mastamho, the main deity of Mojave. Many songs and legends about him have been passed from generation to generation through centuries.
In the Mojave creation myths, Matavilya was the first Great Spirit who created the Earth and the Sky. He was killed by his sister (or daughter in other sources), the Frog Woman. Matavilya’s successor Mastamho was his little brother (or son). According to the legends, it was Mastamho, who named everything on Earth and taught the local population fishing, agriculture, building houses, counting, cardinal directions and much more.
When Mastamho’s work on Earth was done, he turned himself into an eagle and went to the sky (why am I not surprised!) Who knows, maybe the geoglyphs could be a signal to Mastamho, so he can see them from the sky and come back to his tribe…
So, what do you think about Blythe Intaglios and Mojave Twins? Do you find it interesting that you can find geoglyphs in North America? Do you think there is a connection between Nazca Lines and Blythe Intaglios/Mojave Twins? Share in the comments!
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