A pattern of large squares on the ground, discovered in satellite photos of the Taklamakan Desert in western China, could be the result of recent geological surveys.
Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, a researcher from the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, spotted the formation when she was studying satellite imagery of nearby ancient ruins.
“Near the archaeological site of Qieerqiduke, in the satellite maps, we can see a man-made texture on the soil, a huge band which seems created by relatively small holes or mounds,” Sparavigna wrote in her paper, which was published in arXiv.org on Oct. 25.
The pattern starts as a solid stripe of texture on the desert floor, about a hundred feet across, and then turns into an alternating pattern of squares like two rows of a checkerboard. The squares are roughly a hundred feet wide, and they form a stripe over 8 kilometers (5 miles) long.
“This curious texture on the desert soil was probably produced by the pinpointing of geophysical researches. An alternative interpretation could be that of a structure for stabilizing the soil, but there is no evidence supporting it,” Sparavigna stated.
“Evidence for a survey origin exists: the China Daily has recently announced that some geological workers have discovered a large nickel ore in Ruoqiang County.”
Sparavigna explained that when a surveyed area looks promising, geologists will sample the ground for minerals in a grid pattern. She thinks the checkerboard pattern, which is in Ruoqiang County, is where they found the nickel.
“If we see during the analysis of satellite imagery some textures created by the sampling of the soil, we can argue that the site has economical potentialities,” Sparavigna explained.
The pattern can be seen on Google Earth near the coordinates 38.952034,88.167686.
Read Sparavigna’s paper here.
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