More Of Earth’s Curious Ancient Mysteries

Scientists recently discovered the existence of hundreds of curious and colossal earthwork formations in Kazakhstan.  The Steppe Geoglyph formations, which include geometric patterns and a kind of curlicue form of swastika, are visible only from high in the air.

As the New York Times reports, scientists estimate that the earliest of the mound formations was built approximately 8,000 years ago.  They had long since been forgotten and were discovered only when a Kazakh amateur archaologist started using Google Earth images to search for pyramids in Kazakhstan.  He didn’t find any evidence of pyramids in his home territory, but he did notice the huge, sprawling patterns that appeared.  After he announced his findings, NASA and other scientists got involved, began photographing the formations from satellites and analyzing their contents, and the mystery only deepened.

No one knows who built the earthworks, or their purpose.  They apparently aren’t burial mounds.  One scientist speculates that the geometric shapes were built to track the path of the rising sun.  But that explanation doesn’t account for the odd, curlicue swastika shape — which looks like the sort of insignia you might see on a uniform or a flag — nor does it gibe with what we know about the nomadic tribes that lived in the area at the time the formations apparently were built.  Why would nomads stop for the period of time needed to build such enormous formations, only to leave again?

I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theorist, and I don’t watch TV shows or read books about “ancient astronauts” or lost Atlantis or theories about the alien genesis of the Sphinx or the pyramids or Stonehenge or the Nazca Lines in Peru.  But there’s obviously a lot we don’t know about the Earth and human history in the period before the early Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations developed.  Perhaps there is a rational explanation for all of these formations that were visible only from the air, and investigation will uncover a period of human culture that we aren’t currently aware of that helps to make sense of it all. And if there was a previously unsuspected, higher form of early human civilization that somehow disappeared, we might be able to learn something useful from its downfall.

Or, perhaps, there is another explanation.  The possibilities are intriguing.

One other point.  If you’ve got some spare time, you might decide to spend it searching Google Earth images of the terrain in your neck of the woods.  You never know what you might find.

Let The Foreign Observers Watch, And Learn

There’s been a bit of a tempest in a teapot recently about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sending monitors to watch this year’s presidential election.  The Attorney General in Texas has said that the OSCE monitors will face prosecution if they interfere with the election.  That hasn’t gone down well with the OSCE, which says that the U.S. has an obligation to allow monitors to observe the election.

Interestingly, the NAACP sent a letter to the head of the monitoring team urging the OSCE to place monitors in states — including Ohio — where the NAACP believes that voting ID laws and early voting restrictions have been adopted.  The letter urged that “monitors should be particularly vigilant about requests for, and acceptance of, identification of those seeking to vote, particularly if certain groups, such as racial minorities and young voters, are being targeted.”  The NAACP thinks that “election observation helps to improve our citizens’ trust and confidence in election results.”

Apparently the OSCE has been monitoring U.S. elections since 2002.  Who knew?  I’m sure that, like the NAACP, all Americans now feel a tremendous sense of comfort that foreign observers from well-established democratic bastions like Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are keeping an eye on those nefarious blue-haired ladies who staff our polling places.  Countries with such strong democratic traditions no doubt have a lot to teach the nation that is the oldest, and most successful, functioning democracy on Earth.

I don’t think we should threaten the OSCE observers with prosecution, of course, but let’s not kid ourselves:  representatives of other countries should be coming here to learn how free and fair elections are held, not to judge whether our processes stack up to whatever odd standards have been devised in the bureaucratic depths of an organization like the OSCE.  And, if the OSCE is one of those organizations that is largely funded by U.S. tax dollars, don’t expect us to pay for the useful education that the OSCE representatives will receive.