Blythe Intaglios: The Nazca Lines of America

Jan 21, 2015 2 comments

About 15 miles north of Blythe, just west of U.S. Highway 95 near the Colorado River, are a group of gigantic geoglyphs. There are a total of six distinct figures in three locations, including a human figure at each location and animal figures depicting serpents and quadrupeds at the other two sites. The largest human figure measures 171 feet from head to toe. But from the ground level, the figures are indiscernible, nor they are visible from any nearby hill from any distance or angle. Just like Peru’s famous Nazca Lines, they can only be seen from the air. And that is precisely how Blythe Intaglios were discovered.

Unseen by modern humans until the 20th century, these huge figures hidden on the desert floor were discovered in 1931 by local pilot George Palmer when flying over Blythe. Palmer reported seeing outlines of two human figures, serpents and four-legged animals with long tails. Another giant figure appeared just to have stepped out of a large dance ring.


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Palmer’s discovery led to a survey of the area by Arthur Woodward, Curator of History and Anthropology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, leading to the geoglyphs being classified as a “Historical Landmark”. However, with no resident custodian, the site soon became subject to decay by vandalism. During the World War II, Blythe was even used as a desert training area and tanks and other equipment destroyed some of the intaglios. It wasn’t until 1952 when the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution sent airborne archaeologists to the site and published an extensive article on the magazine along with aerial photographs, that Blythe Intaglios became known to the outside world. Today, a protective fence around the geoglyphs keep people from walking on top of them.

The figures at Blythe were created by scraping away the dark colored topsoil and rock to expose the light-colored soil underneath, and then piling dark gravel around the figures to outline them. The fine particles have been washed and blown away over the centuries, leaving larger stones or pebbles on the surface.

It is difficult to say how old the Intaglios are, since dating techniques have not been developed to date these types of features. Their age could be anywhere between 450 years to 2,000 years old. It's believed intaglios were made by ancestors of today's Native Americans living along the Colorado River. According to Native American oral histories, the human figure may represent the Creator, while the animal figures may represent mountain lions who helped in the creation. They are most likely a message to the gods, which a common theme throughout human civilization.


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Sources: Philip Coppens / Weird US / Ron Kilber's Logbook / American Paragliding



    Great Share! Thank you.

  2. They are not as big as they look in the pictures


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