Blythe Intaglios Geoglyphs in California’s Desert- One of the enduring historic mysteries of the US

The Blythe Intaglios is a collection of giant incised geoglyphs/pictographs, located near Blythe in the Colorado Desert of the United States.
Over 200 intaglios have been identified across the region, with the Blythe Intaglios being the most well-known for their unique depictions of three human-like figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral.

No one knows precisely who created them or when. However, what is certain is that the process of creating these phenomenal pieces of natural art required extensive time and effort. This reveals the importance of the geoglyphs to those who fashioned them.

The Blythe Intaglios were first mentioned during the 19th century, but were rediscovered in 1932, when they were spotted by George Palmer, a pilot flying a route from Las Vegas to Blythe.

This led to a survey of the area in 1932 by Arthur Woodward of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and subsequent academic studies, until they were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The geoglyphs were created by scraping layers of surface rocks and pebbles to reveal a stratum of lighter soil, whilst the displaced material was carefully positioned to outline the figures. The largest of the Blythe Intaglio group measures 171 feet (52 m) in length, and is really only visible from the air.

Image Credit : Rsfinlayson – CC BY-SA 4.0Dating of the Blythe Intaglios has proven problematic due to the lack of definitive archaeological evidence, with some sources suggesting they are prehistoric in origin, although they are generally accepted to be between 450 and 2,000 years of age.

Their purpose is also a mystery, with some historians suggesting that the Intaglios were made by the Mohave and Quechan, and that the human figures represent Mastamho, the Creator of all life, whilst the animal figures represent Hatakulya who helped in the creation.

Mere Art or Religious Iconography?
It is hard to support the idea that these desert geoglyphs are mere works of art. While they are certainly visible from the ground, one can best appreciate them from the air. It is logical to propose that the creators made them to appease eyes that are not mortal.

Anthropomorphic figure. Source: Google Earth 2017.
The Blythe Intaglios are on two mesas. Of the roughly 600 intaglios present in the Southwest United States, those located near Blythe are by far the largest. One of the giant human figures is 171 feet long, more than half the length of a football field. The other human figures are slightly smaller but all are more than 100 feet in length.

Creation Figures
Such enormous dimensions perhaps reflect a certain type of reverence for god figures that was common among Native American peoples. If you ask members of tribal societies which still exist in the area to this day, they will tell you that the human figures are representations of a divine creator.

The animal figures exist to convey a creation story. “Their age is inbetween 450-2000 years old. According to the Mohave and Quechans, natives to the lower Colorado River area, the human figures represent Mastamho, the Creator of all life. The animal figures represent Hatakulya, one of two mountain lions/persons who helped in the Creation.

In ancient times, sacred ceremonial dances were held in the area to honor the creation” (Recreation.gov). But why fashion them in such a way that they are most visible from the heavens?

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