AI Processing Helps Scientists Discover Geoglyphs

Archaeologists from Yamagata University, Japan, have discovered some 143 new geoglyphs etched into the desert of southern Peru. The best-known geoglyphs in the world exist in Peru and are called the Nazca Lines. These geoglyphs form part of that collection of massive drawings that span anywhere from 3 to 328 feet across. Due to the large size of these etchings, many of them can only be identified from the air. Archaeologists presume that they were planned out beforehand and then drawn into the earth. Still, such an undertaking by an ancient civilization has never been replicated anywhere else in the world.

Aerial Photography and AI Processing

Because the geoglyphs were so challenging to determine from the surface of the earth, archaeologists used satellite images and remote-sensing technology to get aerial photographs, which they could then use to determine whether the lines followed a pattern synonymous with existing Nazca geoglyphs. They used this ruleset alongside IBM Power System servers to process the data and come up with their results. All but one of the new geoglyphs were identified by software processing of the AI agent.

Purpose Unknown But Massive Engineering Required

Both archaeologists and anthropologists are debating the reasons why the ancient civilization would go to such lengths to craft images that are only visible from the air. In 1994, the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, but some of the geoglyphs were damaged by radical environmentalist group Greenpeace in 2014. The geoglyphs were developed by removing the black stones that form the current ground cover to expose the white sand beneath it.

New Insights

Archaeologists taught the AI to recognize the shapes of the Nazca Lines, and through the processing of the satellite imagery, the technology was able to decrypt these geoglyphs. The images were not prominent based on the amount of time those geoglyphs existed in the area. The oldest geoglyphs were thought to have been designed between 100 BCE and CE 100. AI was required to delineate the original configuration of these lines since the passage of time has slowly erased them.