Amazing Desert Discoveries

May 03, 2021James Montalvo

Have you ever been to a desert? Besides the overwhelming heat and seemingly endless mounds of sand, did you notice anything out of the ordinary? If you didn't, then count yourself lucky. History constantly reminds us that a desert is a place for extraordinary things. Human-made or otherwise, here are some of the strangest things that have been found in the desert. Scientists can't explain this discovery made in the desert, too... you wait and see!

Image Credits: Unsplash/Jeremy Zero/For Illustrative Purpose

THE ELUSIVE LIBYAN GLASS

When the tomb of Tutankhamun or Tutankhamen was discovered. Archaeologists found a pendant that sparked everyone's interest. The pendant that was buried with the famous Egyptian Pharaoh was made of some kind of glass. They ended up calling the material Libyan Glass, and its origins are still a mystery. 

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Image Credits: Wikimedia Comons/H. Raab (User:Vesta) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

IS IT SPACE GLASS?

Libyan Glass is actually the greatest mineral on Earth. The material can only be sourced in the sands of Egypt. If you can find some worth harvesting, that is. Until now, the exact origin of this desert glass is uncertain. One prevalent theory suggests that a meteorite must have impacted the Egyptian desert, creating a blaze of heat that melded the sand into glass and scattering its remains around the desert. Moving on from Africa, we'll take you down to South America.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

THE NAZCA LINES

With commercial flights to Peru finally becoming a thing in the 1920s, the world finally started to see the ancient Nazca Lines' full wonder. These Peruvian geometric shapes carved on the ground are as long as 370 meters and come in the shapes of various animals like a spider, a hummingbird, and a condor. This is what they've been known to be called today.

Image Credits: Unsplash/Fábio Hanashiro

IF GLYPHS WERE USED TO COMMUNE...

The Nazca Lines are classified as ancient geoglyphs. They're like hieroglyphs that ancient civilizations used, but they're carved onto mother earth. If you want to see them yourself, head on over to Google Maps or Google Earth. The glyphs are as old as 1 to 700 A.D., and we still don't exactly know why they were made. Aliens, it's got to be aliens, right? Going back to Egypt, this one has archaeologists scratching their heads.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Diego Delso (CC BY-SA 4.0)

THE BOAT THAT BAFFLED ARCHAEOLOGISTS

It was common for Egyptian royalty to be buried with their belongings. Sometimes servants were even sent to the afterlife with them. They would also be ferried on a vehicle like a chariot or even a boat. However, a recent discovery in 2016 aims to challenge these beliefs. It left the Czech archaeologists who found it wondering who could merit such a burial.

Image Credits: YouTube/Intersting Facts

A WELL-CONNECTED COMMONER?

A 62-foot-long boat about 4,500 years old was discovered by researchers just outside Cairo, buried in a tomb of mud and bricks. It was uncovered to be pristinely preserved for its age, yet what made the find more interesting was that it was nowhere near a royal burial ground. This led researchers to assume it was a commoner. How could this be possible?  We'll just have to wait and see what else they find. Now for a different kind of strange. 

Image Credits: YouTube/ShantiUniverse

THE WORKS OF OLD MEN

These structures found in the Azraq Oasis in Jordan were first seen from above by a British pilot named Percy Maitland. This was all the way back in 1927. From the looks of them, they look like other-worldly symbols carved onto the earth, much like the Nazca Lines from earlier. However, taking a closer look from the ground gives you a better explanation. 

Image Credits: YouTube/Arab News

PRACTICAL TOOLS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD

The Bedouins call them "Works of the Old Men." While that sounds mysterious and very George R.R. Martin-like, they've got a very conventional use. These structures dating back some 8,500 years or so are called desert kites. These structures were used for hunting/herding large groups of animals. Now for a discovery that made everyone think about weird theories.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Guy Baroz

FAIRY CIRCLES

Let's continue with the fairy circles of the Namib Desert in Namibia. These are countless concentric circles found in the middle of vegetation. Theories that involve aliens, the supernatural, and wildfires float around them, but no one knows exactly how they got there. Here are two of the "most plausible" ones to date.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Stephan Getzin (via Beavis729) (CC BY 2.5)

THESE THEORIES TRY

Two of the best running theories about how these "Fairy Circles" are made really spark some debates. The first claims that the patches are made by termite colonies that need to clear some vegetation to create a water reservoir for their homes. However, there is little evidence of these colonies being abundant there. The second theory suggests the bald spots are caused by plants competing for scarce nutrients available in the desert. Neither theory has been proven. Fingers crossed it's actually real fairies. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Thorsten Becker (CC BY-SA 2.0 de)

INSTANT LAKE

The people of Gafsa, Tunisia, though they knew their city's landscape like the back of their palms. That all changed in 2014 when a lake appeared out of nowhere outside their city limits' desert terrain. The Tunisians of Gafsa city call it the "Mysterious Lake." While its emergence was unrecorded, there's a pretty good theory behind its sudden appearance.

Image Credits: YouTube/Tunisie Voyage et Loisir

WAS IT A MIRACLE?

No, it wasn't a miracle. Scientists believe that a small earthquake might have been the cause for the lake suddenly taking shape. It was either a natural one or one caused by phosphate mining done near the city that created a water table somewhere underground that ended up sending millions of gallons of water up to the surface. 

Image Credits: YouTube/Tunisie Voyage et Loisir

FAMILY SECRETS

A rancher from Utah named Waldo Wilcox and his entire family kept a secret of historical proportions for decades. They owned a 4,000-acre range called Range Creek. In it were ancient pit houses, prehistoric rock lines, paintings, and stone tools. Imagine a whole family hiding this for probably a century...

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THEY KEPT IT SECRET TO PROTECT IT

The artifacts are believed to be the work of Fremont Indians who lived in the area over a thousand years ago. The Wilcox family had kept their property off-limits to campers, hunters, and adventures for as long as they could, but when Waldo decided he was too old to keep it up, he sold the land to the Bureau of Land Management. Now the sites are under the protection of the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Image Credits: YouTube/looknavigator

THE NABTA PLAYA

What is it with the ancient world and monolithic stone structures? The Nabta Playa is a basin in Egypt discovered to be the earliest Egyptian people's home. The desert basin is home to dozens of archaeological sites. One of the most famous ones is as it looks a lot like Stonehenge.

Image Credits: YouTube/AE LEARNING

KEEPING UP WITH TIME

Known as the calendar circle, this stone formation is known to be one of the world's earliest archaeoastronomical devices. Said to date back as far as the 5th millennium BCE, the stone alignments suggest evidence of some sort of calendar keeping system these prehistoric Egyptians used.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Raymbetz (CC BY-SA 3.0)

WHAT ON EARTH WERE THEY THINKING

Okay, so we've done the unexplainable and the scientifically baffling. Now for some strange desert finds that will get you wondering what kind of minds these people had to have made or abandoned such things, you'll see in a bit. Yes, these discoveries are strange, but the stories behind them are stranger. The last one even talks about a mystery people are trying to solve right now!

Image Credits: PexelsTaryn Elliott/For Illustrative Purpose

A GERMAN TOWN IN AFRICA, ABANDONED

Kolmanskop, which is Afrikaans for Coleman's head, is a ghost town somewhere in Namibia. In the last years of colonialism, Africa was littered with pockets of the European colonies, looking to fill their coffers with whatever wonders the continent had to offer. For Namibia, it was diamonds...

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Olga Ernst & Hp.Baumeler (CC BY-SA 4.0)

DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER

German rail workers discovered that this part of Namibia was home to a deposit of diamond in the early 1900s. This turned the small settlement into one of the richest mining towns in Namibia. Thousands of people from all over Africa and Europe came to try their luck at finding riches. Eventually, the mines dried up, and those thousands of people moved on, turning Kolmanskop into a ghost town. Speaking of abandoned settlements, here's another one in the middle east. 

Image Credits: Pexels/Frank Odenthal/For Illustrative Purposes

AL MADAM, UAE

Al Madam in the United Arab Emirates is a popular tourist destination. Countless desert safari groups being carried by luxury SUVs and 4x4 vehicles travel to the site each year. The site isn't popular because of its amazing dune terrain but because it was once a bustling town. Now it's almost completely covered in sand. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Alexandermcnabb (CC BY-SA 4.0)

IT'S NOT EVEN ANCIENT

The village is said to have been built back in the 1970s. For one reason, the village was abandoned and left to the mercy of Dubai's desert. The village, forty miles away from Dubai, has two rows of houses and even has a mosque. However, the only things you'll see are the roofs of the buildings. It's so strange to see a modern village just abandoned in the middle of the desert, just like this next one that's totally out of place.

Image Credits: YouTube/Pedro Nascimento

WAIT, IS THAT PRADA?

​​​​​​Okay, so we're verging on the completely bizarre for this next one. Yes, that is a store with the name Prada on it. This Prada outlet is currently sitting outside in the desert plains of middle-of-nowhere Texas. Actually, it's just outside the town of Marfa. It's not an outlet store, so don't you worry. It's actually "art" built by Elmgreen and Dragset, from Berlin. You have to read the story behind it.

Image Credits: Pexels/Mizzu Cho

IT'S "ART" DUDE

This art piece was meant as a commentary on human materialism. When it was first revealed, the "store" did have original Prada products inside it. Unfortunately, just days after it was first built, some of the installation's visitors stole the original Prada merchandise. Human materialism at its finest. Okay, here's more desert art that's caught people off guard.

Image Credits: Pexels/Mizzu Cho

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR CADILLACS? UPSIDE DOWN, PLEASE

There was a time when the Cadillac was the quintessential American automobile. Here we see classic caddies being used for art. The Cadillac Ranch, as it has been dubbed, is the bi-product of the friendship between an eccentric millionaire and members of a San Francisco art collective called The Ant Farm. Here's more on this work of art.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Bavareze (CC BY-SA 4.0)

YOU CAN ADD A LITTLE SOMETHING TO IT

This art installation is in a Texas cow pasture along the I-40. There are a total of 10 half-buried Cadillacs faced nosed down. All of them are facing west and are tilted at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids. Visitors are encouraged to write whatever they like on the cars, which is why they're covered in graffiti. Okay, so if ever you're flying over the Arizona desert, look for this arrow.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Richie Diesterheft (CC BY 2.0)

THE GIANT ARROWS

If you ask a bunch of Arizona natives, especially those who live near the desert, chances are they'll give you an interesting story behind the many 20-meter stone arrows littered across the desert. Fringe theories popped up after the emergence of the internet, GPS, and Google Maps. However, there's a perfectly great explanation for these strange arrows.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Dppowell (CC BY-SA 4.0)

LINES TO GUIDE YOU

These arrows were put in place back in 1911. They served an essential purpose. The giant arrows were used as guides to help mail planes on the transcontinental airway route navigate the desert and deliver parcels from the east to the west coast. Now obviously obsolete, the arrows make for some fan theories and the occasional photo op. Did you know that there are miniature Egyptian ruins in California?

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

THE FAKE EGYPTIAN CITY

Somewhere along the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes stands a 35-foot-tall statue of Ramses II. There are also Sphinxes and an 800-foot-long temple to go along with it. No, the Egyptians never secretly migrated to California. The fake Egyptian ruins are actually what remains of the set of Cecil B. DeMille's movie, The Ten Commandments. There's an interesting tale behind it too!

Image Credits: YouTube/CBS This Morning

NO ONE ELSE COULD HAVE IT

The Ten Commandments is remembered for being one of the most expensive films in Hollywood history. As the story goes, the film's production didn't have enough money left over to have it dismantled. To make things worse, the film's director didn't want other production teams to make use of his set. So he had it partially bulldozed and turned into ruins. Speaking of the California desert, here's another strange discovery.

Image Credits: YouTube/CBS This Morning

DEATH VALLEY SCOTTY

Somewhere in the barren lands of Death Valley National Park in eastern California lies a mansion called Scotty's Castle. It's not an actual medieval castle. It's more like an opulent Spanish Colonial-style villa. Neither did it belong to a person named Scotty. However, if you're ever planning to look for this castle, you should know its dark history.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/National Park Service (Public Domain)

SCOTTY'S CASTLE

Scotty's Castle was built by a rich insurance broker named Albert Johnson. He was enticed to build a dream home in Death Valley by the infamous con-man Walter Scott, "Death Valley Scotty." The extravagant holiday home cost Johnson $1.4 million, but when the Wall Street Crash of 1929 happened, the project was abandoned. Now it's under the protection of the National Park Service. On the topic of homes in the desert, did you know that there's a town in Australia that's underground?

Image Credits: Instagram/dcxr7

THE TOWN UNDERGROUND

The world's largest opal mining project can be found in Coober Pedy, Australia. Prospectors discovered this land's potential for greatness in 1915, but they encountered a complicated problem. That problem was the heat. With temperatures of 113 degrees, miners needed to get creative.

Image Credits: Instagram/shotzbyjackson

COOBER PEDY

Using their mining expertise, the settlers of Coober Pedy started digging on hillsides to make underground homes. Over the years, the settlement has become an amazing place. It now boasts of a subterranean network of abodes that include public bars and a hotel in addition to the many homes that have been dug out. Fun fact, Mad Max was shot here. Let's move on over to the Mojave desert. 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Kerry Raymond (CC BY 4.0)

THE MOJAVE PHONE BOOTH

Just imagine seeing a lone phonebooth in the middle of the desert. It would surely be a strange sight. The Mojave Phonebooth was installed in 1948 to service local miners. It was in use all the way up to 2000. Before that, however, the phonebooth became somewhat of an urban legend and later an internet phenomenon.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Hulton Archive/Gilles Mingasson

THE INTERNET EFFECT

By 1997, people would make pilgrimages to the phonebooth. Some would even camp around it, hoping to pick up a random call. There was even a website dedicated to the phone booth that publicized the booth's phone number. Even the New York Times covered it. Just imagine all the calls it was getting. Sadly, the booth no longer sits there. It was removed in 2000.

Image Credits: YouTube/99TakesProd.

IS THAT A MAZE?

In 2011, Goggle Maps updated their system and revealed something very odd about China's Gobi Desert. Seemingly out of nowhere, strange lines visible to a satellite in space were seen in a section of the country's massive desert. People theorized that it might have been weapons testing sites or some other mysterious reason. However, someone ended up explaining everything.

Image Credits: YouTube/Discovery Channel South East Asia

YOU'RE BEING WATCHED. SAY HI

A Mars Space Flight Facility research technician and mission planner named Jonathon Hill explained everything to the media. Hill told CBS that the 60-65 feet white lines zig-zagging around a vast section of the Gobi Desert are most definitely used to help calibrate China's Spy satellites. Cause you know, China just loves keeping tabs on everyone. Okay, the last one is a bonus and an exciting mystery.

Image Credits: YouTube/Discovery Channel South East Asia

THE SECRET POOL

As per the stories shared by thousands on the internet, an Australian artist decided to build this elite swimming pool somewhere in the Mojave Desert. The pool is open to all if they can find it. Even more interesting is the fact that Google Maps doesn't reveal its location either. The hunt is definitely on!

Image Credits: Twitter/viralon_net

Have these strange desert discoveries gotten you interested in scouring the barren wastelands of a desert near you? How would you feel if you stumbled onto any of these? Have you found anything cool out in the wild? Let us know in the comment section; for more fun lists like this, head on over to Amomedia.

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