The Utah Antiquities Section has been contacted on a number of occasions over the past year regarding strange patterns people have noted on the surface of the earth in remote areas of Utah. The availability of Google Earth and increasingly better imagery have enabled people to make observations that were previously not possible.
Geoglyph is a commonly-used archaeological term which refers to large-scale symbolic and artistic creations people have made on the earth. They include such things as the serpent and effigy mound complexes of the American Southeast, and the Intaglios of the Arizona, California, and Mexican deserts. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoglyph).
In addition to receiving phone calls and emails (from all over the U.S., Europe, and South America), we have become aware of a number of web sites that draw attention to these geoglyphs.
In addition, the specific shapes (circles, hexagons, etc.) are always adjacent to or coincident with long linear features of a similar appearance, sometimes extending many miles.
Some of the patterns observed include hexagons, parallel lines, “wheels” and “flowers.” Photos from Google Earth show examples of these below:
While these shapes and designs are indeed intriguing, and are certainly unexpected, they are not ancient, and there is nothing mysterious about their origins. They are scars left by bulldozers that laid out and traced shot and geophone arrays for seismic exploration in the 1950s – 1970s.
Seismic exploration is used to investigate subsurface deposits, and involves creating a shock or wave at the surface of the earth that travels downward and is reflected back by subsurface deposits. The reflected energy is recorded and maps of the subsurface are created. The technique has been extensively used in Utah in exploration for oil and gas deposits. For additional information see http://geology.utah.gov/surveynotes/gladasked/gladseismicsurveys.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflection_seismology
The interesting and mysterious patterns were different arrays for placing explosive charges in order to maximize the information obtained. Seismic Exchange, Inc., a large firm based in Houston that specializes in seismic research, and which serves as a repository for over 1.8 million miles of 2D domestic seismic data, has confirmed that shot arrays that produced on-the-ground patterns like those observed in Utah were commonly employed in 2D seismic research in the 1950s through the 1970s. Dave Grissett of Seismic Exchange provided the following examples from the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Applied Geophysics—all of which would produce patterns like those observed in the Utah deserts.
This example is not exhaustive of the kinds of arrays that were used. It is interesting to note that like patterns cluster along linear lines connecting them—affirming that they were part of a systematic attempt to use certain arrays repetitively in certain areas.
While it may be tempting to attribute these patterns to ancient peoples or visitors from outer space, the actual explanation for them is a bit more mundane, but defensible.
We hope this helps clear up some of the mystery of Geoglyphs in Utah.