Archaeological researchers have discovered giant inexplicable spiral features protruding from the ground just south of Angkor Wat.
The shapes, several kilometres across but just tens of centimetres high, have no obvious purpose and have left researchers baffled.
Archaeologist Dr Damian Evans from the University of Sydney discovered six spiral-like shapes from an aerial topographic survey of the land with a vegetation penetrating sensor.
His data shows three intact shapes which look like square spirals, and three features almost entirely demolished by an Angkorian canal.
“We still don’t know what these features are. There would have been six at one stage – it’s difficult to reconstruct because it’s a very complicated palimpsest, the aggregation of several cities in the same area over the course of several centuries,” Evans said.
“What we have in this case is a set of features which are very clearly associated with Angkor Wat. Their orientation matches precisely with the orientation of Angkor. Without a doubt these features are contemporary or associated with Angkor Wat in some way.”
The features, made from mounds of earth, have been troublesome to name as just part of the structures conform to a spiral.
Researchers have been able to rule out a few theories including water management.
“They’re not linked into the broader water management system, so they’re almost certainly not to do with water management or agriculture. We can do very complicated analyses of how water flows through the system which shows water definitely does not flow through these,” Evans said.
“Field surveys have revealed no evidence of ceramic remains or anything like that. So at the moment they look like they’re fairly archaeological sterile embankments that probably weren’t to do with occupation. So it raises an interesting question about what they are.
“We have no particular working theories about what these might have been. It may be that further excavation will reveal more.”
Though some have drawn comparisons to the Nazca Lines in Peru, researchers are skeptical about whether they are geoglyphic features – shapes designed to be viewed from above.
“It’s obvious that in the Angkor area they were very careful in terms of how they patterned the urban space. It conforms to a kind of sacred geography where things are laid out and placed on the landscape for a very specific reason,” Evans said.
“Things are related spatially, chronologically and spiritually and everything is done for a particular reason. Obviously, this being one component of that sacred geography, these patterns have some very specific meaning.
“Someone has gone to some considerable amount of care to make them. They cover several square kilometres. There is something specific about these features but we have no idea why there were laid out on the scale.”
While there is a temptation by some to perhaps suggest these features are the work of the alien interlopers so popular on cable TV, Evans is very quick to rule this out.
“This is one of the things that we dread as archaeologists in finding things like this that we don’t really understand. Our current lack of a decent explanation for these features leaves the door open for all kinds of cranks and frauds to come up with their own whacky hypotheses about them,” Evans said.
“I’m sure that there’s a reasonable explanation for these things that does not involve aliens. We just have yet to work out what it is.”