Google Earth is becoming more and more a favorite tool for archaeological discoveries and has resulted in uncovering lost cities in the Amazon, while it continues to be a favorite tool to identify enigmatic structures in the Gobi Desert since they were announced in November 2011.
Massive geoglyphs in the shape of animals is nothing new to Peru: dozens of them are depicted on the enigmatic Nazca lines, made famous by Erich von Däniken when he argued that these geoglyphs should be seen from the skies. At the time, hardly any research had been done in these strange geoglyphs, but since, archaeologists have identified they form part of a larger complex, which even includes pyramids.
But Google Earth enabled the discovery of even larger depictions, mounds in the shapes of birds like the duck and the giant condor, a puma and even sea animals like an orca. As with the Nazca lines, these objects are best to be seen for the sky, in evidence that they were only discovered through Google Earth.
The duck mound was created by adding a head to a natural formation, while a nearby circular mound is thought to represent an egg. Most remarkable is that some of the mounds have been dated to be as old as 5000 years old – 3000 BC, making them on par with the pyramids of Caral in Northern Peru, dated to ca. 3200 BC. Whereas until recently, archaeologists were reluctant to date anything in the country BC, all of a sudden 3000 years are added to Peruvian history.
The man responsible for discovering and dating the mounds is University of Missouri anthropology professor emeritus Robert Benfer. “I had always noted that a very large structure just north of Lima resembled a bird. But since there were supposedly no giant animal effigy mounds in South America, I thought it couldn’t be one,” Dr. Benfer said. Or how suppositions were once again proven to be wrong!
The mounds range from 15 feet to 1300 feet long, spread out over six valleys in coastal Peru, in fact, less than two miles from the sea. The puma mound was found in El Paraiso, in the Chilca Valley. ‘The finding of animal effigy mounds where there were none before changes our conception of early Peruvian prehistory,’ Benfer said. ‘That they probably represent the Andean zodiac is also a new find. A controversial interpretation of some Nazca figures as representations of the zodiac is supported by these mounds.’ Benfer argues that a mound in the shape of a condor is aligned to the Milky Way when viewed from a nearby temple, while the puma mound aligned with the June solstice when viewed from the same temple. He notes that structures not only represented the stars, but were also aligned with them. The discovery therefore highlights once again that our ancestors were not only aware of astronomy, but used it in bringing down the skies down to earth, reminiscent of that hermetic saying “As Above, So Below”.
Unfortunately, Benfer immediately follows these important observations by going for the all too common explanations so cherished by archaeologists, claiming these designs would help the ancient Peruvians with farming and fishing! “For example, knowing that December 21 had passed was very important. If there was no sign of an El Niño by then, fishers would know they would have another good year, and farmers would face neither drought nor floods,” Benfer said. It is clear that a farmer did not need such a complex system to know the solstices and like. Far simpler designs could be created for that. And the true reason as to why these structures were built therefore will remain once again to be discovered.
Benfers’ work will not come as a surprise to Fernando and Edgar Elorrieta Salazar. In 2003, these brothers identified various animal forms in the hills and designs in and around Machu Picchu. They discovered that the design of the capital Cuczo was equally ingeniously created to form the image of a puma, the “royal animal”. Many of these constructions were achieved by using a mixture of natural shapes, which were then augmented – “stressed” – by human intervention, often by creating fields in very specific shapes. Creating fields is easier than building huge mounds, but Machu Picchu and Cuzco are located at high altitude, whereas the mounds are located near the coast.
Philip Coppens is an internationally renowned investigative journalist, author, and regular contributor to magazines such as Atlantis Rising and NEXUS Magazine. He is labeled a skeptic by the believers, and a believer by the skeptics—a unique position which makes him a well-recognized voice of reason. He is the author of six books, including The New Pyramid Age, and is one of the leading contributors to The History Channel’s popular series, Ancient Aliens. He lives in Edinburgh and Los Angeles, California.
His most recent book is The Ancient Alien Question.