The giant wheel-shaped structures in the Middle East

First discovered in 1927 by British Royal Air Force fliers, the strange wheel-shaped structures in the middle east are gaining new attention thanks to Google Earth. Researchers have discovered thousands of them in Peru, Jordan, and other nearby countries.


Some believe that the structures were used to contain animals, but there is no consensus about that. According to an article on

In Saudi Arabia, (David) Kennedy’s team has found wheel styles that are quite different: Some are rectangular and are not wheels at all; others are circular but contain two spokes forming a bar often aligned in the same direction that the sun rises and sets in the Middle East.

The ones in Jordan and Syria, on the other hand, have numerous spokes and do not seem to be aligned with any astronomical phenomena. “On looking at large numbers of these, over a number of years, I wasn’t struck by any pattern in the way in which the spokes were laid out,” Kennedy said.

The function of the wheels may also have been similar to the enigmatic drawings in the Nazca desert.

“If we consider, more generally, the stone circles as worship places of ancestors, or places for rituals connected with astronomical events or with seasons, they could have the same function of [the] geoglyphs of South America, the Nazca Lines for instance. The design is different, but the function could be the same,” she wrote in her email.

Kennedy said that for now the meaning of the wheels remains a mystery. “The question is what was the purpose?”

Despite all of the talk of the discoveries of these in Google Earth, very few articles actually provide KML files or coordinates to view them yourself. I’ve tracked down a handful of sites in northern Jordan, which you can view with this KML file. If you find more, please leave a comment and let us know.
Beyond that, what do you think the purpose of these wheels was for? Practical, religious, astronomical, or something altogether different?

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.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Looks like site #2 is slated for destruction from mining operations.
    The #1 and #3 sites look much more like homestead enclosures than art/animal traps as described in the articles.

  2. Dr. Margaret Brown Vega says

    This study does not include Peru, which is not in the Middle East, but in the South American continent. The researchers simply make reference to the large geoglyphs known from the coast of Peru. Please correct this error.

  3. A scale is needed, or some other indication of what “giant” might mean, plus some idea of the material(s) forming the “wheel” shapes.
    Commentators can find enigmatic “ritual” meanings in anything, but these have every indication of being homesteads combing huts and animal enclosures. The ‘organic’ looking roughly circular shapes are the most effective way of forming enclosures and corralling animals, and the groupings may reflect related people living close by each other and/or building over time.
    Plenty of archeological evidence of such structures (there are even ancient ‘wheel’ houses in Scotland), and GE shows similar ones apparently in current occupation.

  4. This might be the footprints of animals which lived long time ago.

  5. They remind me of rice paddies. I wonder if they’re for irrigation? Can’t tell if they are ditches or ridges, but either way they could retain water and aid agriculture.

  6. Possibly the base of circular towers used for escape during sudden flooding. The overlapping impressions seen could be the base for spiraling stair like structures. Possible early form of the ziggurats that were common in the general area and served the same purpose before they were eventually used as temples and became mostly rectangular. Look at the surrounding topology. Obviously a different geological and climatic environment thousands of years ago.

  7. There are clearly lots of other similar patterns all over the area, covering a lot more ground than suggested by the placing of the 1,2,3 marks. Many of the patterns are not wheel shaped at all, but much more irregular.
    Without ground level photos, it is almost impossible to say what they are.

  8. From the alignment there is clearly a planetary influence suggesting ritual worship of astral gods at auspicious times of the year. The shapes are clearly inspired by childrens’ novelty pasta shapes suggesting there may have been ritual sacrifice of children. There is also evidence of defensive constructions indicating that there were fierce and frequent battles between neighbouring clans and most likely canibilism. The large structure would have been the residence of a wealthy community member who would have been revered and given offerings of gold and food.
    Alternatively, they may just be typical of village compounds similar to present day ones found all over rural africa.

  9. It’s clearly the picture of different viruses, I’m not a doctor but looks like a virus. Maybe we are being warned about some plague.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.