Deforestation of the Amazon is uncovering Geoglyphs

700 years ago, for reasons that are still unknown, ancient people sculpted hundreds of geoglyphs in the Amazon. One of the most famous geoglyphs is the Nazca Lines in Peru. Recently, a combination of deforestation and high-resolution satellite imagery is beginning to expose many more of them.


Because of their huge size, geoglyphs are almost impossible to discover from ground level. It’s only when you get high in the air can you begin to see the shapes coming together in a pattern. A quote from TreeHugger:

One of the factors that contributed to so many geoglyphs being undetected prior to the aid of satallites is their enormous size. According to leading geoglyph scientist Alceu Ranzi, his latest discoveries — five sets of geometric shapes, with circles, squares and lines — can measure more than a mile from one extreme to another.

As Ogle Earth noticed, the TreeHugger article didn’t actually point out the exact location of any of the geoglyphs. However, GloboAmazonia found some of them, which you can view below, or download the KML file to view directly in Google Earth.

View Amazon geoglyphs in a larger map

While discovering more of them may help to eventually find out why they were created, further deforestation may be the only way to reveal them. To again quote TreeHugger, ” if it takes more clear-cutting in the Amazon rainforest to find out the answer, hopefully it will always remain a mystery.”

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Umm . . . the fact that these lines can only be seen if the area is deforested means . . . that the area was deforested WHEN these lines were created. Kinda hard to make make deep, straight grooves in the ground with all those trees and their underlying roots every where you turn, ya know. Just stating the obvious.

  2. Treehugger suggests that the ancients cut these glyphs through dense forests but it begs the question whether these areas were clear cut at the time. As Jared Diamond suggests in “Collapse,” pre-Columbian Americans were no, um, tree huggers.

  3. terrifying what anybody can discover with google 🙂

  4. Duncan Brinsmead says:

    Hmm… it looks like these might be settlement boundaries rather than geoglyphs for gods to see. (at least to my untrained eye) Perhaps there could be interesting artifacts buried at these locations.

  5. I believe some time ago it was published in Scientific American an article about those marks. Something about a people that built linked roads and had irrigated areas for plantation (I just listened to the podcast). It’s really great discovery since the actual indians there live in huts and hunt and gather for living during these last centuries.A major infrastructure from a civilization there was unknown.

  6. Odd that they’ve jumped to the conclusion that these are geoglyphs. They look more like architecture to me.

  7. Find a place at N51.410315 E30.054761 where in a few hundred years man may find clear traces of ancient infrastructure after some deforestation… 😉

  8. These geoglyphs are amazing to see but also not amazing because we uncovered them through the deforestation of the Amazon. The Amazon is very important to our planet and we need to do everything we can to preserve it.

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